I don’t want to work with my estranged father, changing in front of coworkers at the gym, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My amazing new job has a catch: my father

I just started a new job at what appears to be a great company. On my first day, I learned that my new company is owned by the company my father works for. I also learned that interaction between the companies is expected to increase, and while it’s not probable, it’s possible that I could end up working with my father. At least one of the higher-up members in my division even knows him. (Aside: this company definitely has no concerns about relatives working together.)

The problem is that my father and I have not spoken for three years. I might be able to have a very distant professional relationship with him, but, to be frank, almost any interaction at all would make me want to quit. 

It’s known that my father works for the parent company, but no one knows that we have had an intense falling out. Should I mention this to my team lead? I’d obviously couch it in professional verbiage, a la “My father works for [parent company], but we do not get along. If at all possible, I’d prefer that any work that might involve him or his team be delegated to someone else.”

This is literally my second day on the job, and I’m worried about coming across as full of drama. I’m also worried that even though it was my father who disowned me, my reporting our soured relationship will make me look bad, but I specifically want them to know that this goes beyond the potential awkwardness of working with family so that they never intentionally put us together. And, finally, I’m so new to the company that I have no metric with which to gauge how reactions to this information would go.

Yes, mention it to your manager. Your wording is good, but I’d tweak it to this: “I hadn’t realized the extent to which [this company] works with [parent company], but now that I do, I feel I should let you know that my father works for [parent company] and we’ve been estranged for several years. I wouldn’t want that to cause any awkwardness in a work context, so I’m hoping that if we ever have work that might involve him or his team, it could be assigned to someone else.”

Companies generally don’t want to invite family drama into their work, and it’s pretty likely that if there’s a way to keep you from having to work with your dad, they’ll try to accommodate that. (There might not be, of course, but it’s a reasonable thing to flag.) You’re not going to come across as full as drama as long as you don’t … come across as full of drama. In other words, if you conduct yourself professionally and maturely (as opposed to, say, complaining about him all the time, sobbing in meetings when his company name is mentioned, etc.), that’s not going to be outweighed by having a difficult family connection.

And remember, lots of people have tough family dynamics. You’re not weird or dramatic for having one too.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Locker room etiquette when your gym is full of coworkers

My office recently added some cool new perks on top of our employee benefits. My favorite? They’re now offering anyone who wants it a free membership to the gym right across the street from our office. It’s been hard for me to work out previously because of my commute, so I’ve been taking full advantage of this perk since it took effect a couple months ago. Lots of my other coworkers have jumped on this perk as well, and I’ll run into them at the gym frequently. Overall, it’s been positive, but there’s one thing I don’t know how to handle — the locker rooms.

I’m pretty comfortable in my body, and I’m not that awkward about changing in your standard locker room full of strangers. But the prospect of a coworker — or worse, my boss — walking in on me changing has me feeling incredibly awkward. So far, I haven’t been seen by my coworkers while changing and haven’t walked in on anyone else from my office, but I know it’s only a matter of time. This is a situation I’ve never encountered before — I didn’t know anyone who worked out at my previous gyms. What should I do if I run into a coworker in the locker room while one or both of us are in various states of undress? Should I just change in the toilet stalls to avoid anyone seeing me? I might be making a bigger deal of this in my head than it actually is, but it has me feeling really uncomfortable.

It’s pretty much the same locker room code as always: There’s a collective agreement to ignore everyone else’s nudity.

The last time this came up, a commenter offered this, which I really liked:

“I think there’s a big difference between functional nudity and casual nudity at the gym. Functional = in order to change, I have to take off my clothes. I am no longer 12 and trying to hide my body at all costs, so if someone glances over at me while I am changing, they will see me naked. Casual nudity = I am wandering around naked, blow drying my hair naked, etc. This is fine generally in a locker room, but is best to avoid at a work gym. Though I would totally blow dry my hair wearing a bra and not a shirt to avoid getting hot/sweaty.”

In other words, make any nudity fairly quick. Don’t linger.

But it’s also completely fine to decide you’re just not comfortable with locker room nudity around coworkers at all and change in a stall. There’s no shame in that; you’re not being weirdly prudish if you got that route.

3. Why don’t companies reimburse for pet and child care when you’re traveling for work?

I travel for work approximately once a month. Often it is just an overnight trip, but frequently enough it is for two to three nights. I live alone and have two cats in one of the most expensive cities in the country. Having someone stop by to feed them often runs me upwards of $200 for the multi-night trips. I recently asked my boss if this was something I could expense (a past boss at the same company let me do this for a week-long trip out of the country), and I was turned down on the account of “then people would want to expense child care.” My thought is, this is an expense I am incurring due to a mandatory work trip, so I should be compensated. If a colleague was incurring childcare expenses they don’t usually incur due to a work trip, that should be compensated as well. We shouldn’t be losing money by going on work-required trips, right? Or am I wrong, because I agreed to a certain amount of travel when accepting the job? (And yes, I try to have friends stop by to feed them, but there’s only so much you can put your friends out!)

There are some companies that will reimburse for pet care or child care when you travel, but (a) they’re much more the exception than the rule and (b) even then, it’s often a small yearly limit that doesn’t cover the full costs. More typically, companies just don’t cover it. But you’re right that in general you shouldn’t have to lose money when you go on work trips, so I can’t make a logical case for why this is; it seems to just be convention.

Generally the expectation is that if you’re taking a job that involves travel, you’ll factor that into your salary negotiations and ask for a salary that allows you to do the travel comfortably (both in terms of not taking a loss on things like this, and in terms of compensating you for the quality-of-life impacts of business travel). But that’s not the entire explanation for why we do it this way, since that doesn’t cover people who just get sent on a trip once or twice a year without it being a thing they explicitly signed up for.

One situation where you can sometimes get an exception made is when you’re doing the travel as a favor to the company — like they need someone to go at the last minute, or it’s a hardship trip that you could say no to, etc. In those cases, you often have more leverage to say, “Well, I could do it but I’d incur $X in pet-sitting — if you could help with that, I could say yes.” The rest of the time, though, it’s mostly seen as a personal expense rather than a business one.

4. Explaining I’m leaving because of looming layoffs

About 18 months ago, I took on a great job. I have enjoyed the work and feel like it’s putting my career in the right direction. I got a great performance review and have a good reputation in the company. Recently, it was announced that our company will be acquired by another. Over the next few months (and years), we will be having significant layoffs. While it’s possible my job will survive, my lack of tenure at the company and fear of getting laid off has me looking for other jobs. I want to use my success at my current job to help me get my next job. How can I explain why I want to leave without looking like I am being forced out or that I am afraid of change? I don’t want to seem like I’m not adaptable in today’s environment where layoffs are the norm.

“We’ve been acquired by another company and expect to have significant layoffs in the next year. I’ve enjoyed the work there, but am looking for stability.”

Interviewers hear this kind of thing all the time and it won’t raise any eyebrows. Also, wanting to avoid an involuntary layoff doesn’t mean you’re afraid of change or not adaptable! It means you’re making sensible and understandable decisions for yourself.

5. How do I describe subcontracting work on my resume?

I’m trying to build a resume after having freelanced for the majority of my career, and I’m at a loss as to how to describe my experience. Say Big Llama Inc. and Llama Co. both have ongoing relationships to hire Small Farmers to handle their llama production, and Small Farmers hires me to handle grooming. I could say I worked with Small Farmers, but that would look essentially meaningless (no one outside the industry would have any idea what Small Farmers did or that the big companies outsource their work — plus, I’m not their employee, they just happen to be my only client). I want to say that I have worked on projects for Big Llama and Llama Co., which is true, but they never hired me personally, nor do I have any relationships with them, only through Small Farmers. I don’t want to be misleading! What’s the best way to describe this?

Like this:

Llama Groomer — contracted via Small Farmers
Jan. 2015 – September 2018
* Groomed llamas for Big Llama Inc. and Llama Co
* Cleared four-month grooming backlog for Big Llama Inc. in three weeks
* Increased llama satisfaction surveys for Llama Co from 64% “highly satisfied” to 91% “highly satisfied” over six months
* Another accomplishment
* Another accomplishment

{ 478 comments… read them below }

  1. My Dear Wormwood*

    #3: it’s the not the norm to even consider subsidizing pet or childcare because it’s a holdover from the days when workers pretty much all had a wife at home to handle these things. It was logical then…not so much now.

    1. Mary*

      I just came on to say the same thing. There is an expectation that there was someone at home (normally a wife) who took care of domestic arrangements while you were the busy business man travelling on important work. I spent years paying a lot extra for child care when I had to travel to head office. I had to leave home at 6 am and my husband was not home from night work until 8 am. Very expensive childcare. Only once did grand boss acknowledge the cost. The whole assumption that a worker has no home responsibilities is changing only very slowly.

    2. Same*

      Yup, I came here to say the same. So much of our society (particularly work) is structured the way it is because it was assumed a man was working and a woman was not.

    3. Phil*

      Be that as it may, I still think, at least in cases like OP, if they accept a job that involves a lot of travel, and the employer was upfront about that before accepting, then it’s one of those cost-of-the-job kind of things you have to weight up, either before accepting the job, or before adopting pets if you’ve already accepted.

      1. Jdc*

        I agree. I wouldn’t be happy about paying a certain employee more to travel than another because of what they choose to do at home. You knew when you got the pets and took the job this would happen. That was a choice they made.

      2. Ophelia*

        Yeah – I have a job that involves a lot of travel, and generally speaking, we do incur minimal extra childcare expenses when I travel (adding an extra hour of a babysitter or daycare here or there), but I’m lucky enough to have a 2-parent household, so the burden mostly fall on my husband, whose labor is ostensibly free after work hours (and since we both work full-time, our kids are covered during work hours anyway).

        THAT SAID, most of these trips are planned at least a few weeks in advance, which enables us to work out the logistics. I have negotiated in the past to bring my toddler with me on a trip to Peru–the company covered the cost of her ticket and or lodging, and I covered in-country childcare (which was reasonable, even when I payed more than the going rate)–but that was a special case because I had about 2-3 days’ notice for the trip, and my husband’s schedule couldn’t accommodate it.

    4. MK*

      Well, the kind of person likely to travel for bussiness was likely to have a wife not working outside the home. [I don’t want to go off-topic, since the issue is specific to bussiness travel, but “the man was working and the woman was not” has never been a general reality for working-class people, at least where I am from]

        1. Atlantian*

          Yes, but, I can’t imagine the 1950s job that both requires travel and doesn’t provide a salary that allows the partner to be a stay-at-home domestic type.

          1. Quill*

            Door to door salesman, I think. Unless I completely forgot everything I learned about Arthur Miller’s works.

          2. Ace in the Hole*

            Of the top of my head… Truck driver. Public works laborer through something like the CCC. Parks employees. Various marine industries. Traveling salesman. Airplane stewardess. Low-level railroad employees (for example cabin cleaning/serving crew). Enlisted military. Probably a lot more.

            I think your point is valid that an office job requiring the type of travel people picture when someone says “business travel” were paid well enough to support a family on a single income. And furthermore, I think the expectation for a lot of the low-paid jobs that required travel was that they would be taken by single men with no kids (or stereotyped as being jobs that attracted “rough characters” who wouldn’t care about leaving their lady behind anyways). Not that it was necessarily the case for all the people working those occupations, just that was the public perception at the time.

      1. Quill*

        Yeah, but in general? Businesses didn’t, and still don’t care, about how you manage your family life if you make less than a certain amount.

        Which is one of the many reasons that in the 1920’s it was far less uncommon for people to live with extended family and still have children who weren’t working themselves be relatively free range, even in cities. We’ve made progress towards people being able to both provide for their families and actually have families, but we’re still ultimately in a culture that prioritizes everyone being employed and businesses doing everything they can to cut costs, including paying workers as little as they can get away with.

        1. Nonny Maus*

          The business and corporation uber-alles attitude. Oh how I wish it would die.

          All of which is to say bravo Quill!

    5. Asenath*

      Or other alternatives – a spouse who worked a different schedule so that child care could sort of be cobbled together, a relative, maybe one who lived in the same household, who could provide free child care, children old enough that with school and a little supervision from the eldest, they could get by. Even today, the “relative helping out for free” is used by people who can’t afford commercial care or can, but something falls through and they need a backup. The norm was “We’re paying you to work, and it’s up to you to figure out how to handle your personal life at the same time. If you can’t, perhaps you need to find a different job or not work at all.” Or, in the past, at least locally, someone without family help would have to put the children in an orphanage in order to be able to support him or herself at all.

      1. Rumor has it...*

        Family legend says that’s why my family is missing one great uncle… my widowed great grandmother had to put her kids in an orphanage and the baby was mistakenly given for adoption.

        1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          “Mistaken” my rear end, selling babies without the consent of their parents was a profitable business back then.

          1. Asenath*

            I expect there were mistakes as well as profiteering. Even today, with all the emphasis on proper identification, employees of institutions sometimes get confused as to which patient/inmate/whatever is supposed to be discharged (and to where) and which are supposed to be kept a bit longer.

          2. Marizane*

            It still is, check out “No White Saviors” work on adoption – many if not most African children who are adopted have families or some kind of relative to go to who want them (many of them have one or both parents still living), but are “encouraged” to give them up – even told they will still be able to see their children, that their children will visit, that their children are just getting an education, not being adopted. People pay 10k+ to adopt a child that has parents.

                1. TomorrowTheWorld*

                  Thank you but that isn’t it. Bookmarking for later reference!

                  The article I’d read was about how those type of industries are using fake orphans to provide illegal child labour for families in the U.S. African slaves, basically.

      2. Grapey*

        To me, depending on “family help” (lets be real, older women) to care for your kids for free is just depending on the same old social model of “women do the rearing”.

        I find it funny to hear some younger progressive friends talk about how they don’t have their moms local to watch their kids for free on a regular basis, and at the same time talk about wanting to see women have looser shackles from domestic care in society. Older women nowadays still have jobs and (from what I’ve heard) want free time away from being expected to care for grand kids.

        1. Avasarala*

          …? I think the idea is that working-age women can work outside the house, and Grandma can retire at a sensible age (like 50 or 60) and help care for grandkids. I don’t see the hypocrisy, it’s very common in many cultures to have grandparents take care of children so that the parents can work. Then the parents and kids grow up and the cycle continues.

        2. TardyTardis*

          I had a friend who had to move in with her daughter because of bad health, and she was literally ‘grandma’d’ to death watching the grandchildren. Still mad about it.

      3. Pommette!*

        This is so true, especially for lower-paying jobs.

        My grandmother’s parents spent most of their childhoods in orphanages (it’s how they met!) for this reason. His mother was a widow who worked as a maid, and often had to live and travel with her employers. She’d take him out when she had a room of her own to live in, but would put him back when she didn’t. Her family would pick her up for holidays, then bring her back. These were really normal arrangements for poor working people whose schedules or salaries didn’t allow kids, and whose families couldn’t provide informal support.

        And really, it’s still true. A good friend of mine works in a child protection services adjacent role. She says that the vast majority of families she sees get referred for neglect or neglect-related problems. Of those, more than half are families with non-neglectful single parents working inflexible jobs that interfere with childcare, who can’t afford adequate paid care and don’t have access to free help from relatives or friends. The only help they actually need is more money/a better job.

        1. pancakes*

          “ The only help they actually need is more money/a better job.” Or subsidized child care. We aren’t obliged to keep our economy structured the way it presently is.

        2. Mama Bear*

          There are many places where infant care is more than college tuition. The other part of that is many places have very prescribed hours and if the parent works a swing shift or has several part time jobs, not knowing when or how long care is needed can be a huge problem, too. If you suddenly need someone at 6AM, that daycare that doesn’t open til 7:30 isn’t going to work. And round it goes. I know I spent more time alone than my mom liked when I was in middle school because she was a single mom with no support and no family nearby.

          But I digress. The OP is asking about pet care while traveling. I would add this to my negotiations at review time or when asking for a raise, especially if there are any job changes that increase this expense.

        3. Risha*

          It was a situation rife with abuse. Older children were routinely lent out to families to perform hard labor and such. My Irish Catholic great-grandmother was severely mentally ill and my great-grandfather was a cheater; they got divorced but he kept coming around, and they ended up with nine kids and her institutionalized for period after several of the births. The kids were all “sent to the nuns” each time because he couldn’t/couldn’t be bothered to take care of them, the nuns in turn shipped the older ones out to work for their profit, and at least one of my great aunts ended up a lifelong severe alcoholic after being raped by the family’s father and one of my great uncles ran away to join the circus and became a geek.

      1. ScottishOnion*

        Basically, the company is not responsible for your outside work life. If you choose to have children, or choose to have pets, that is your problem, not theirs. They are paying for you to work, not everyone else in your family. Asking for help for pet care is pretty ridiculous to me. If you can’t afford it, don’t have pets or get some other kind of income to be able to afford it.

        1. Alice*

          I always suspect these “if you CHOOSE to have children…” types would also get huffy and judgmental if the poors in question had chosen to have abortions.

          1. Quill*

            “if you chose to have children” historically wasn’t a very accessible choice prior to about the 70’s, and with the way the american medical industry is going it’s possible it won’t be a choice much longer if you’re poor.

            1. Dahlia*

              It’s 30 dollars a month to keep my ovaries from exploding, and I live in a country with universal healthcare. 400 dollars a year is not a small expense.

          2. Fikly*

            I’m very you should only raise children if you choose to, for many reasons, and I’m also very pro-choice. But an abortion is not the only option if you are pregnant and do not want a child.

            1. AKchic*

              Really? Because adoption is so easy? So easy in fact that the foster homes are empty and nobody is crowdfunding to pay for those adoptions? Agencies aren’t turning away eligible, prospective parents?

              Oh… right. None of that is true. Adoption is difficult. Even on the birth mother. We do not make it easy in any way.

          3. Asenath*

            I agree with Fikly about the possibilities of other options than abortion – and am feeling my years since I grew up in an era in which choosing was, ummm, de-emphasized, since birth control was so scarce and unreliable that sensible people knew that pregnancy was often a matter of luck (good or bad, depending on the situation) and not choice. There were certainly lots of people who thought the poor should reproduce less – the eugenicists were prominent among them, and surgical sterilization was sometimes a tool – but to drag this back on topic, poor parents had to figure out how to work and feed and shelter their kids; no one expected their employers to do it for them, and the expectations had very little to do with the ideal of a stay-at-home mother doing all the child care because that wasn’t usually an option for the poor. I think the tendency of many modern employers to not offer child care or reimbursement for it has roots in the division between private and working life. The existence of children is part of their employees’ private lives, and nothing for the employers to concern themselves with.

          4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            No. A lot of us who stand with Planned Parenthood say this. There are options to prevent pregnancy, it’s not just abortion. We believe in education as well, so that people know their options.

        2. Washi*

          I would buy the argument that if you accept a job that is upfront about frequent travel, you should make sure you feel the salary adequately compensates for all the logistical problems that come along with that, such as child or pet care.

          But some jobs don’t generally require travel and then suddenly there’s a trip out of the blue, and the company still doesn’t reimburse for child or pet care. In those cases, I wish it were common practice to compensate the employees for costs they incur in order to travel for business.

          1. Witchy Human*

            I think a truly unexpected and last-minute need for an employee to travel could justify asking for reimbursement for pet care. If I could have recruited a friend to pet-sit free if I’d had more notice, and instead had to pay to board them, it seems reasonable to make the request with the expectation that a ‘sorry, no’ is pretty likely. Otherwise, in most companies, it would be odd to bring it up.

            1. Sacred Ground*

              And an employer that asks an employee to incur unexpected expenses for the sake of their business should also be prepared to accept “Sorry, no” as an answer.

              1. Baba Wawa*

                In a perfect world, that’d be how things work. I sympathize with OP. Early in my career, when I was single with two cats, I took a role in Marketing. They mentioned in the interview that going to trade shows would be part of my job. Which meant “some travel” at predetermined times during the year. They said “about 5 a year”. That wasn’t true at all. They had me flying out almost every other week, all over North America. I almost never knew my itinerary until about a week out, sometimes 48 hours in advance. During one trip I got sick with a cold, didn’t know how bad it was to fly that way and ruptured my eardrum. It was the worst pain I’d ever experienced. When I got back to home the doctor said I couldn’t fly for several month. My manager was sympathetic, but the company wasn’t thrilled with me being grounded. After that incident I started pushing back on the frequency of my away assignments, foolishly thinking I had some say in the matter. I was let go. They cited “insubordination” for not traveling when asked.

                (Because I lost so much money with the whole pet/apartment sitter thing, I actually ended up moving in with a roommate who was cool with my schedule. Best decision I ever made. Gave me peace of mind someone was home with my stuff and my cats. I did luck out with a good roommate.)

        3. Tuckerman*

          I don’t think pet care should be the priority looking at employee reimbursement, but companies absolutely address needs outside of work life. They pay a large portion of their employees’ healthcare premiums and offer employee and tuition assistance programs, vacation/sick/personal time, adoption financial assistance, etc.

          1. The Francher Kid*

            Not all companies do this, though, and I’ve never worked anywhere that offered everything you mentioned. The company where I spent most of my working life paid some portion of my basic medical premiums but I paid the entire cost of dental and vision, had at the most 10-12 days a year to cover *all* personal time, no adoption assistance, very limited tuition reimbursement and EAP, and no paid maternity leave. This was one of the largest employers in my area, BTW.

            1. mlk*

              Completely off-topic! Sorry, Alison!

              Have you heard yet that Zenna Henderson’s Ingathering (complete collection of the People stories) is coming out as an ebook next year? And NESFA is going to release a collection of her non-People stories in both print and ebook editions next year too? **squee**

              For others: Henderson wrote in the 1950s-1980s mainly about teachers and ‘odd’ kids who often had powers. Many of the stories are about the People–alien refugees trying to survive on Earth. I would call them feel-good stories. NESFA press has had the People stories in press since the mid-90s but only in print. Her other stories have been out of print since sometimes in the 80s or earlier.

              1. The Francher Kid*

                OOOO, cool, I didn’t know that! I have very well-worn paperbacks that I bought long ago. I really love The People. Henderson was a teacher herself, that’s why a lot of her stories have teachers in them.

          2. EventPlannerGal*

            I think that this perhaps speaks to your own experiences rather than what is the norm for companies to cover. I have never worked anywhere that offered tuition reimbursement, adoption assistance or much in the way of employee assistance. I also understand that many companies in the US only offer limited healthcare, sick leave, holiday days or maternity/paternity leave. I think there’s many companies that really don’t cover much or any of this stuff.

        4. pancakes*

          ScottishOnion, you’re speaking as if the average / default employee is a person with no children or pets. There’s no good reason to believe that’s true, and there’s no good reason employers should structure all of their benefits around the expectation of all employees not having children or pets.

        5. OP3*

          It’s not so much a matter of not being able to afford it, it’s the principle of not losing money regularly on required work trips.

          1. Do I need a hard hat for this?*

            Agree 100%!!!

            There’s been a couple of times I’ve been sent downtown to run an errand, which means paying for parking if I want to get the errand done quickly. We have a slow process for getting paid mileage, but I had to sit down and explain the parking situation to our accountant so she would reimburse me for that as well. She thought I should just find free parking, but I don’t think they understood the logistics and extra time that would take. She begrudgingly approved it.

            I know that’s different than your situation, but the point is it shouldn’t cost ME money to run an errand for the company.

          2. Rugby*

            But weren’t you aware that travel was part of the job when you accepted it? I can understand if they sprung this on you after the fact, but the personal cost associated with the job is something you should have taken into consideration when you negotiated your compensation package.

        6. ceiswyn*

          I can afford my pet. I can also afford the hotel stay, the transport, and the food. But the company pays those expenses for me regardless of my ability to afford them, because they are expenses I am incurring purely due to work.

          As far as I’m concerned, if I’m only spending money because work requires me to do so, work should be paying for it.

          1. DM*

            I, too, have pets, and I also sometimes have to travel. Most companies don’t reimburse for that because it really isn’t a direct business expense. When you travel, they HAVE to give you lodging. Just like when you are at work, they have to provide you with restrooms, breaks, etc. But, if you work and have children or pets, the company isn’t paying to have someone watch your children or pets. IT doesn’t matter if you’re working M-F, 9 to F, or weekends, or your work requires travel. Those are personal expenses. Many parents who work and have children at home need to arrange childcare for times when they are at work — if they aren’t expected or required to pay for childcare for, say, the M-F, 8 to 5 hours, similarly, they aren’t expected to pay just because you need to work on a weekend or go out of town for work. That being said, I sympathize. Like I said, I have pets. Travel is a pain, especially overnight, and I have turned down jobs with lots of overnight travel because I didn’t want to have to routinely leave my pets and arrange for a pet sitter.

            1. ceiswyn*

              I take the 9-5 into account when I accept the job, though, and for that among other reasons I don’t take jobs that require travel.

              It still occasionally happens that my employers want to send me somewhere for a week, though (which has happened… maybe three times in the twenty years I’ve been working?). And I don’t see why I should be significantly out of pocket as a result of a work requirement that is outside my standard duties.

        7. Spek*

          + 1000 As a child free worker I am soooo tired of my vacation & time off needs being considered second place to someone else’s family requests.

        8. Fiddlesticks*

          Not a very…nice…response from you, is the only way I can politely reply. If someone takes a job with the expectation of regularly travelling for work, then yes, the employee should factor in the costs of pet care and child care when it comes to negotiating salary. But job requirements change over time. And sometimes, we are asked to make an occasional out-of-town trip or attend a conference that’s not part of our regular schedule. So an employee should just lose hundreds of dollars on pet or child care even though all other business expenses are covered? THAT is what sounds pretty damn ridiculous to me.

        9. Mongrel*

          “Basically, the company is not responsible for your outside work life.”

          Which would be all well and good if you weren’t unable to get home because of work commitments.
          If this was the case then I would expect travel for work to on;y be done during my normal working hours and I’m back at the office for or home at a normal time?
          When work expects you to occasionally stay away from home for a night or two they’ve usurped your “outside work life” so why shouldn’t you have a conversation?

    6. prismo*

      I apologize if this is off-topic, but how is this LW spending $200 to have her cats fed for two days?? I also live in one of the most expensive US cities and have two cats, and usually it’s around 20 bucks a visit for someone to come by, feed them, change the litterbox/water, and play with them for a bit. I know it doesn’t answer the reimbursement side, but I think the LW could lower their costs significantly. Try Rover or TaskRabbit.

        1. The Francher Kid*

          Bingo. If a sitter has to give injections or special meds or make extra trips it’s going to cost extra. And if you need that kind of specialized care, you have to make sure the person giving it is capable so you don’t come home to a very sick pet. I don’t live in a very expensive city but if I had to add services like that, it would easily double the per-visit cost.

        2. alligator aviator autopilot antimatter*

          Yup. I live in an expensive city and have two cats, one of whom needs insulin every 12 hours. Our pet sitting charges when we go out of town are $40 per visit, so $80 a day, and more if it’s a holiday. That seems to be the going rate for a situation like ours, both for the vet tech we found through word-of-mouth and for apps like Rover.

      1. noahwynn*

        I know I can’t leave my cat at home more than 2 days by herself. Even with someone stopping by. She goes to boarding and I have to ask them to play with her and cuddle her. Thankfully they don’t mind because she’s so friendly. Even that only costs about $50 per day at the most, and that is during the holidays when the cost is higher. I know they charge extra for medication though, so maybe if you have multiple cats and a lot of special requests the cost goes way up.

      2. AnotherAlison*

        Some people are also a little over the top about their cats and don’t see it as out of the ordinary.

        My cousin used to have my aunt travel 8 hrs to cat sit when the cousin and her family went on vacation, had coinciding business trips, etc. It was an old, high-maintenance cat.

      3. Anonapots*

        How about worrying less about what the OP is spending, since the question had nothing to do with that.

    7. Emily K*

      It actually goes back even farther than that. Since the industrial revolution, owners have had to be fought every step of the way to acknowledge that employees have any lives outside of work at all. It wasn’t that they thought factory workers had wives at home – it was just that they didn’t care what factory workers had at home.

      20th century corporate America never needed to give a reason for not reimbursing childcare expenses, or giving paid parental leave, or limiting the hours in a workweek, or having guaranteed holidays, or paying overtime, because American workers had never been taught to expect that a company would care about those things. Until we made some of those things legal requirements they largely just didn’t do them, and the ones that still aren’t legally required still don’t get done, without especially needing justification. Like Alison says – you can’t make a logical explanation for it, it’s just how it’s always been done and with few exceptions businesses don’t care about your life outside of work any more than they are legally required to.

  2. Massmatt*

    #4 This is exactly what happens with layoffs, employees with good opportunities look to move on to protect themselves. Don’t feel self conscious about it!

    Good for you for being proactive. Too many people worry about layoffs but don’t take any action.

    1. Grey Coder*

      Yep, looking for a new job because of the prospect of layoffs is absolutely 100% normal. You don’t need to wait until you know you’re going to be affected.

      I suppose I can imagine a company where they’d look down on a candidate for not having “loyalty” to the sinking ship, but you don’t want to work at places like that.

      1. JustaTech*

        Yup. One place my mom worked announced that they were going to do a major re-org, and then sat on it for a year. A year in which almost all of the most talented and most difficult to replace staff left. All of the people who *weren’t* at high risk of a layoff. But they found great jobs elsewhere and everyone who hired them considered themselves lucky to get such talented people for such niche jobs.

        “I’m looking for more stability” is a line I’ve used in interviews and one that pretty much everyone respects.

    2. PhyllisB*

      True, but sometimes companies pay big$$ to stick it out to the bitter end, or conversely, to take an early buy-out. It might be worth holding off for a while to see if this is the case with your company.
      However, I can understand not wanting to live with the anxiety of uncertainty, so do what is right for you. No potential employer will hold it against you.

      1. Fikly*

        Interviewing is not a commitment to leaving your current job, though! Totally go see what your options are, and the hiring process can often be a long one, especially this time of year.

      2. Life is Good*

        There may be big payouts if OP sticks it out, but in my experience, it is also fraught with worry. At my last job, formerly friendly employees of the old company turned very ugly towards one another after the new company came in and started to make changes. Most of it was fear of the unknown. Some of us started to quietly look elsewhere for jobs. Those of us who moved on are so relieved that we are out of that turmoil. Sometimes, peace of mind is worth way more. It can’t hurt to put out feelers, OP. Sorry you’re going through this.

      3. RC Rascal*

        The big payouts go to senior people and those with long tenure. Who need them because it will take them longer to find something else. After 18 months service you are going to be looking at a 2 week severance in many organizations. Better to look elsewhere now.

      4. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        My husband’s company laid off one of their software development teams earlier this year when their particular project came to an end. They were given about four months notice, and offered a generous severance if they stayed through the final day (I believe it was six months salary).

        At least one person had already started a new job by halfway through the notice period. Less than two months after that final date, all the developers have found new jobs. (I’m not sure about people QA and other roles.)

      5. Bilateralrope*

        I’d only consider that after my employer has made that offer. If they haven’t said anything, it seems best to assume it wont happen.

      6. not always right*

        I agree. I have been through three different companies who announced layoffs. I made the decision to ride the horse until it died in all three instances. The first one, I ended up with about 9 months worth of pay so I was able to take a whole month off. I didn’t even bother to look for work during that heavenly 30 days. The second time, I was given a hard end date and told that if I stayed, I would get my insurance covered for 90 days after my end date, and I would get 12 weeks severance. I was able to negotiate the start date on my new job so that for 12 weeks, I got pay from both jobs. The third one wasn’t as nice, only 2 weeks severance, but because of the long lead time, I was able to sock away enough money that I could take a month off without it causing any financial pain. I had interviewed at a couple of places before my end date, and exactly 3 weeks from that date, I was hired at my new job. Been here for 18 months. Got a promotion and a raise in pay.

    1. Mo*

      I was just about to reply that if you want to be able to expense your childcare expenses, take it up with your Congressperson or Senators. Allowable business expenses are set by the IRS, virtually all companies follow their rules.

      Worst example of unfair expense reimbursements I’ve witnessed: junior staff went to the home office to work on projects that ran out of both locations. If you were in a local sports league, you were allowed to fly home for games at company expense. Working out at the hotel or local gym was not reimbursed. And yes, it was all guys who were flying home for games. The IRS considers gym fees to be entertainment and not an allowable business expense.

      1. Retired Accountant*

        That makes little sense (though that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen). Deductible expenses are still expenses, and the expense of flying someone home, even if tax deductible, would greatly exceed guest gym dues for a week. Not to mention lost productivity.

        Plenty of companies reimburse gym dues while traveling, less common to reimburse child and pet care probably because it’s more expensive. The tax code doesn’t drive every business decision.

      2. Doc in a Box*

        Wait, the company paid for employees to pursue their hobbies while on a work trip? Either the company was swimming in funds or they had a very strange interpretation of the tax code.

      3. WellRed*

        I’m just surprised that you worked someplace that had a bunch of people who played in a sports league. Unless I am misunderstanding what that is.

        1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          There are lots of recreational leagues that “normal” people play in. I assume that’s the type of league here rather than something that’s part of a professional sports system. I know plenty of people with regular jobs who are also in a softball, volleyball, bowling, or golf league, and many workplaces field workplace-specific teams in the local rec leagues (I think I’ve seen posts about people feeling pressured into the work softball team on AAM before). Things like softball and volleyball are often through the local parks and recreation district, and things like bowling and golf are often run by or with support from a specific alley or course. I’ve also seen some companies or organizations that seem to exist to just run things like adult kickball leagues that play at the local park.

          My dad once worked someplace with an entire workplace-specific local golf league, but that company was in an athletic-related industry and sold golf equipment (among other things), so I don’t know if that’s common or the kind of thing that only happens if you work at a sports-related company. I don’t think they’d fly him home to play golf for the work golf league if they’d sent him to a conference, though. (His particular job had to do with mainframe computers rather than anything golf-related.)

      4. Not Me*

        This isn’t accurate at all. I’ve worked at major companies that covered child and pet care expenses for travel. It’s not all about IRS guidelines and the patriarchy.

  3. mark132*

    @LW2/Alison, about changing in a toilet stall, I have to admit I’d be rather annoyed if I need to use the bathroom and all the toilet stalls are filled with people changing their clothes. So I rather disagree with people changing in toilet stalls, of course if there is a dedicated changing stall, that seems fine to me.

    1. JessaB*

      I don’t think Alison meant a toilet stall. Most gyms do have changing stalls, at least on the women’s side (I’ve never been in the men’s side so I have no idea.) They do acknowledge that some people do not like to change in front of others whether because of modesty, religion, disability, whatever.

      1. XoXa*

        The OP asks about changing in a toilet stall and doesn’t mention the possibility of a changing stall, so I don’t think you’re right on that.

      2. Kix*

        Indeed. My experience is that people then gravitate to the larger stall for disabled people. I’m disabled and have been kept waiting because people were using the disabled stall as a private dressing room.

        1. Not Me*

          There are a lot of invisible disabilities, you can’t know for certain the person in the disabled access stall didn’t need to use it.

    2. Tamz*

      It’s understandably annoying if you can’t use a toilet when you need to – but take up that frustration with gym management for not providing adequate facilities, not with the women who feel uncomfortable changing in public.

      1. Bagpuss*

        I agree that it is appropriate to raise it with the gym, but the fact that people are doing it because they feel uncomfortabl doesn;t stop it being an antisocial; thing to do if it ties up the toilet stalls. Obviously it depends how many there are and whether it is going to create a problem, but if the liklihood is that it will stop people using the stalls for the intended purpose, then I think you need to find another solution to how you change (such as a larger towel you can change under, if you want, for instance)

        1. Observer*

          Calling it anti-social is way over the top. People who are uncomfortable generally have good reason for it.

          It’s always been a problem, and now with the advent of cell phones and enough idiots who think it’s ok to USE them in a locker room, it’s just gotten worse.

          1. pancakes*

            “Anti-social” does not imply the lack of a reason. It’s a description of behavior, not everything and anything that might be an underlying reason for the behavior.

            1. Elitist Semicolon*

              Why is it “anti-social” for people to behave in a way that best accomodates their comfort level as to who sees any part of their body?

              1. pancakes*

                I wouldn’t go quite as far as to say it is. I just wanted to push back on the idea that describing behavior as anti-social is somehow saying or suggesting that there’s no reason for it. I don’t think it is entirely unreasonable to call someone who hides their body in a changing room as anti-social, though — one of the meanings of that phrase is “contrary to the customs of society,” and it is indeed customary for people to change clothes in communal changing rooms before and after exercising.

                1. Elitist Semicolon*

                  That’s a rather broad and easily reversed definition. Not having (or not having access to) a place to change in which someone feels safe and comfortable is negatively impacting them, too. Folks changing in stalls are trying to do the best they can within institutional systems that don’t always accomodate their individual needs, regardless of whether that need is based in personal preference, physical need, or social need (such as religious norms). Would changing in a stall still be anti-social in a context other than a gym – for example, someone who commutes by bike and changes into more professional clothing at work?

                2. Avasarala*

                  It’s anti-social to want privacy because it negatively impacts others? Seriously? Are you arguing we should relinquish our own bodily autonomy for the convenience of others?

            2. Observer*

              Anti-social is a loaded and judgemental term. And it most definitely implies a reason – a NEGATIVE reason. And it’s just not a fair or correct assessment.

              1. pancakes*

                Yes, it is a loaded phrase. The UK used to issue anti-social behavior orders (ASBOs), and that was changed a few years ago to something about criminal behavior. I’m not following what you’re saying about good and bad reasons, though, and this aspect of your comments seems to be at odds with your strong feelings about judgment being bad. In any case, it seems very unlikely to me that someone who notices someone else refusing to change in a changing room or hiding under a blanket would think they have no reason for doing so, or spend much time speculating as to what the reason(s) might be.

                1. Observer*

                  I’m saying that the term is loaded and negative. And it’s unfair to categorize not wanting to be nude around others as anti-social.

            3. Annette*

              I don’t understand why it’s anti-social to not want to be naked around strangers! I’m never naked around strangers, except when I have been actively going to the gym, and I am not comfortable with being seen naked by people I don’t know.

              Even the doctor gives you drapes and robes with this understanding.

              1. pancakes*

                I think you’re missing the customary aspect of social behavior. It’s customary for people to be given robes when undressing for a doctor, yes. It’s also customary for people to use communal changing rooms at gyms to change their clothes.

              2. Sacred Ground*

                I think in the context of a gym locker room, a shared resource, prioritizing your need to not be momentarily naked in front of people over my need to not crap in my pants is pretty selfish and when done without thought or consideration for others, it’s fair to call it antisocial.

                1. Avasarala*

                  I think in the context of a shared resource, it’s fine to prioritize my bodily needs ahead of others’. Just as you prioritize yours. It’s just as selfish to prioritize your need to use the bathroom over someone else’s.

        2. Quill*

          Oh, the old high school gym method of bringing a beach blanket to wear like you’re a cartoon ghost while you shuck out of your awful school swimsuit and back into your underwear?

          1. Ophelia*

            I remember as a teenager, thanks to a schedule that involved both soccer games and lifeguarding, managing to change into and out of a speedo *while wearing* a soccer jersey and shorts. My current middle aged body would definitely not accommodate that practice though!

            1. Quill*

              Wow. I just turned myself into spaghetti trying to put clothes on while also trying to keep my massive amount of hair from drenching my school clothes.

              Meanwhile, I spent 3 years of summer gym in the same class as a girl who was told, at least once per trip to the locker room, “Sadie, put a goddamn shirt on!”

            2. Filosofickle*

              I was a swimmer. I remember some high school meets where, if I swam the last event, we had to be on the bus with no time to change. I actually got out of swimsuits on the bus, while keeping my sweat on. Looking back, I have no idea what the logistics were to get the bottom half off…

              1. Elitist Semicolon*

                Another former swimmer with weird changing skillz here! I also rowed for a while and got very good at taking off layers of clothing with only one hand so the boat kept on keel. I can still take off a sweatshirt one-handed (not that the need arises much).

          2. TardyTardis*

            Still beats the heck out of having one’s naked body posted on Instagram and shamed…then again, the lawsuit alone could help pay off the bills.

      2. Emily Spinach*

        I don’t think it makes sense to call a locker room “public” when it’s literally a facility for changing. That said, there are a lot of reasons people may prefer more privacy, and while it’s not my place to say X is an acceptable reason and Y isn’t, I wish a lot fewer people tied up the toilet stalls by using them to change in.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          It may not be public in the same way a sidewalk or a parking lot is public, but it’s certainly not private. My bladder’s on the small side, so I really do understand how hard and upsetting it can be to wait for a stall when they’re all occupied, but I don’t blame the people who aren’t comfortable being naked in front of strangers.

          1. Zephy*

            I mean, I don’t particularly want strangers to see my body, but I’ve also figured out how to change in a locker room without getting completely naked…? It’s not difficult, and with just a little bit of planning, your parts don’t stay exposed for very long. With a little more planning, you can change without revealing anything to anyone.

      3. Mama Bear*

        Agreed. If this is a big issue at that gym, then make a suggestion for private changing areas, *especially* since it’s a work-related gym.

      4. arcya*

        I do have personal experience with this – my work has an on-site gym and basketball court. There is a surprisingly large locker room on the first floor. I like the gym, but I change in a stall. There are multiple bathrooms in the building, if someone super needs to use the toilet they can use another one. If I ran the risk of a VP seeing my butt every time I changed I would probably just not use the gym!

    3. ssnc*

      If the company is giving the gym a lot of money for memberships, maybe the company can ask if the gym can throw up some curtains for private changing areas?

      1. Emily Spinach*

        It probably doesn’t, but in a crowded gym with lunchtime fitness classes for example, those few minutes can be pretty inconvenient. The people changing in the stalls aren’t trying to be difficult for everyone else, so it’s not like, a terrible thing to do, but it’s not what that specific space is for. (And some people really feel uncomfortable or even unsafe changing in the main locker room, which I try to consider instead of getting mad about the toilet stalls, but I have a small bladder and my fitness class fills up quickly so I’m not always as compassionate as I’d like to be!)

    4. Anonymeece*

      I don’t entirely agree. I know several people in religions where nudity of any kind – even in front of people of the same sex – is so discouraged that they would be very uncomfortable changing in front of other people. In those cases, I feel like it’s fine that a few quick minutes to change in a stall is okay.

      And honestly, if someone just doesn’t feel comfortable with it – even without a religious context – I wouldn’t want to force anyone to display themselves to avoid a few minutes of waiting for myself.

      1. Jessen*

        For context – I have some very visible and obvious self harm scars on my torso/upper thighs. I’d definitely think twice about changing where my coworkers could see it. Good chance I’d do it anyway, but at the same time I know too many people who freak out.

    5. Witchy Human*

      There are other presumably other bathrooms in the building; if there are no other options for LW to change in privacy and she decides that she wants to, then I’m going to be fine with giving her priority.

      Everyone has waited for an open toilet for a minute or two–you can’t really go through life without it happening every now and then. One kind of discomfort doesn’t outweigh another.

        1. Emily K*

          You say they should have “priority,” but since this isn’t about who gets to cut the line and go first, you seem to actually be saying that it’s the *only* permissible use of the stalls. Changing in a bathroom stall is a common enough activity in public restrooms that saying people shouldn’t do it because they’re not peeing seems overly rigid. What if they pee AND change while they’re in the stall?

          The most salient thing to me is just “what is a reasonable amount of time to spend in a public stall where others might be waiting?” As long as someone is courteous regarding the time they spend in there, and they don’t leave a mess behind, I really don’t think we should be trying to get into the business of making rules about what activities are permissible in a toilet stall and which ones aren’t. You’re in the stall, that’s private time.

          1. Johnny Tarr*

            I think this really cuts to the heart of it. There are a handful of common reasons to use a toilet stall. No need to police what goes on in there as long as people are expedient.

            1. Elitist Semicolon*

              I have very intense memories of a public restroom in Shanghai with pay-per-use stalls that had timers on the doors. When the timer expired, the door would unlock and swing open, regardless of whether the person inside was finished with what they were doing.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          A toilet in a room intended for people to change clothes. I think that is 100% an appropriate use of a locker room bathroom. If somehow there is only one toilet it might cause issues but if this is a large gym then there are probably a number of stalls and I cannot imagine this would cause any issues.

    6. Lehigh*

      I feel like it being a bathroom stall in a gym locker room makes this part of the intended purpose, though. It’s different if there are a large number of people changing in the stalls in a public bathroom located elsewhere, because it’s not in a facility designed for changing.

      Even then, not something I can see getting upset about unless it’s creating a long line. Sometimes bathrooms are full. That’s just how it goes.

    7. AnonEMoose*

      OP #2, maybe it would help a bit if you can reframe this in your mind a bit. I remember reading about a concept from (I think?) Japan, where communal bathing isn’t uncommon, and privacy is harder to come by for various reasons. The idea was that nudity was a thing that is “often seen, but seldom looked at.”

      So essentially, if I understand it correctly, the idea is that people may be naked or in various states of undress, but no one is staring at them. The nudity isn’t sexual or remarkable for the context, it just is. Instead of thinking “I’m naked, people are looking at me,” try to focus on what you’re doing and not worry about anyone else. You could also think about including something like maybe a beach coverup or something similar in your workout bag, and using that as a cover while you’re putting on underwear or on your way to the shower or whatever.

    8. Victorian Cowgirl*

      It seems like that would probably never be the case though, doesn’t it? Has that ever happened to you? OP is just one person.

    9. Not Me*

      It’s pretty obnoxious, in my opinion, to police bathroom stalls. If the issue is there aren’t enough to be used by the normal flow of traffic, that’s an issue to take up with gym management.

      Unless you’re monitoring what people are doing in the stall, who are you to decided whether they need it or not? Come to think of it, even if you are monitoring it, why is it up to you to decide who uses a public bathroom stall and when?

        1. Not Me*

          If you’re monitoring and making judgments on why people are using the bathroom stall, you’re policing them.

          Bathroom stalls are provided to offer privacy for things people do in the bathroom. Changing clothes is well within that definition.

          1. mark132*

            First off that’s not policing it’s an opinion, having an opinion is having an opinion, to be policing you have to say something. And I disagree, if it’s creating bottlenecks for people going to the bathroom it’s a problem.

  4. Jess*

    Alison, can you explain why your response to LW #1 is different from all the other letters where there is personal/professional overlap impacting the work environment and your response has been essentially “suck it up and act professional”? Is it because the parent/child dynamic has a hierarchy to it? Thanks.

    1. Eliza*

      I think it makes a difference that she’s not walking into a situation where they’d have to work together from day one; it’s just a possibility that they might end up working together in the future, and it sounds like it’s in everyone’s best interests to try to avoid that possibility. If she were being hired into a position that currently required working closely with him, and avoiding that would require changing those pre-existing arrangements, that’d make things a lot more difficult compared to simply avoiding arrangements that would require them to work together in future.

    2. One of the Sarahs*

      That’s not my recollection of Alison’s advice in these type of letters, where there’s a difficult relationship overlapping with wirk – my recollection is it’s consistently “alert your supervisor, in a professional way”.

      The only time I can think of her saying “suck it up” is the ones like “my husband had an affair with someone who’s joining my office”, and even then, there’s a lot of compassion there.

      1. Bila*

        Yes, and I think the advice might be different if the person were forced to work with a gaslighting, cheating ex husband than with the AP.

        I wouldn’t extrapolate too much from the specific advice in that specific instance.

        1. Bila*

          PS I think there’s a difference between someone who has the ability to cause ongoing harm and when harm is in the past. I think there’s a difference if the person who caused the harm had an intimate or familial relationship with you. I think there’s a difference if the harm was severe or ongoing.

          Someone who insulted you in 3rd grade is not in the same league as an abusive parent.

          Anyone who is going to use a connection to you to harm you now or on an ongoing basis is very different irrespective of the relationship.

          A lot of adulthood is sucking it up and realizing there may be no justice in this lifetime. There may be no karma. But that does not mean one has to let go of boundaries and allow new harm.

          So one must differentiate sucking it up in terms of emotions based on past actions or minor emotions and protecting oneself now and in the future.

          It sounds like the threat here is clear and present and ongoing.

          1. Bila*

            Actually, I’d love to see our fearless leader do a post on when to let something go and when you don’t suck it up. Maybe even something joint with CA.

            1. Come On Eileen*

              My dream column or podcast would be Alison, Captain Awkward, and Daniel/Dear Prudence getting together on a regular basis to chat about topics like these. I’d sign up for that in a heartbeat.

              1. Gazebo Slayer*

                Oh, Alison and Daniel did a podcast together once! It was one of Daniel’s first and it had a letter they discussed in a “real or fake?” way which was one of the funniest I’ve ever heard. (It involved kinky sex with a coworker caught on a security camera and elicited the glorious sentence “Life will not be a series of Spider-Man piss revelations.”)

                Warning: don’t do what I did and listen to it at work. I couldn’t keep myself from giggling at my desk!

    3. Lucky black cat*

      It’s generally been “suck it up and act professional” if the issue has arisen between two colleagues who already work together.

    4. I'm just here for the comments*

      So here I am lurking on the internet at 2 am when I should be sleeping, but…….I literally did just read several related-article links where Alison advised speaking up about personal dynamics where it would affect job performance. I think the “suck it up” mentality you’re thinking of has more to do when your coworker has an annoying-but-harmless habit, or where it’s a personality clash but there’s no reason to not be professional and get the job done.
      Family estrangement is a whole other ballgame. It’s not even being played on the same field. And Parent/Child estrangement is like the star-athlete of a niche sport. It’s simply not comparable to coworkers-who-annoy-you-but-you-can-still-get-the-job-done. More reading on this can be had over at Captain Awkward’s blog if you want to see what’s at play.
      LW1, I just want to say that you have my empathy. I’ve been estranged from my dad for over 20 years and I still get anxious at the thought of running into him at a sibling’s upcoming wedding, which is for several hours out of 1 day and never to be repeated. So the thought of having to potentially repeatedly run into him at work for as long as I worked at the company- OH HECK NO. I’d be in my manager’s office and/or HR in a heartbeat. And this time I wouldn’t be crying from my panic attack while explaining yet again that we DON’T GET ALONG AND WE DON’T HAVE A RELATIONSHIP so no, I won’t be going into the class that he’s substitute teaching (thankfully the high school counselor finally took me seriously). And you know what? The accompanying awkwardness from other people once it got out was still easier to deal with than having to face my dad in the classroom. And the awkwardness went away as people moved on with their gossip. And there was something that happened behind the scenes because soon after my dad was no longer substitute teaching at my school. So LW1, I’d say just be matter-of-fact about it (because it is what it is), any awkward weird reactions you get from people are sure to be short-lived, and you’ll feel 1000x times better for it. Best of luck to you.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This times a hundred. OP, we talk about hills to die on, this would be one of mine. There is not enough money in the world to give me the incentive to deal with a toxic family member.
        However, once I clarified that in my mind, it would help me to move ahead with talking to the boss in a professional manner. This is because I know how this has to land so I can afford to be calm and even keeled. I absolutely know where I am going with the conversation.

        Clarify in your own mind how much interaction would be acceptable to you. I am thinking probably ZERO, but that is a question with an answer unique to the person in the situation. Alison laid out a great format there, it’s brief but it’s got all the important info. I am a fan of practicing in front of the mirror, get used to the sound of your own voice saying these words.

        1. Estranged*

          Honestly, even though my new company is one of those jobs some folks’ brag about, I very well might have turned down the offer had I known the potential for working with my father, soooooo

          Yeah, you’re right. No wrong answers and so long as I stay professional I should also say what I feel is necessary to continue working here comfortably.

          Thanks for the empathy and advice, all.

      2. BRR*

        I think this is a good and accurate differentiation. I think of the LW who was bullied in school or situations with harassers or ex-spouses vs. the letter about the candy dish that was referenced earlier this week or the instanced of employees giving each other the silent treatment.

      3. Sutemi*

        In my company, even if you had the best parent-child relationship you would be expected to disclose it to your manager and HR. While partners/spouses/family members can work together as long as they are not in reporting lines, you are expected to disclose personal relationships so the company can keep you separate. Vendors, contractors and collaborators with family relationships must also be disclosed to avoid conflict of interest.

        1. Estranged*

          I just finished HR training yesterday and that doesn’t seem like a thing here, though I really wish it were.

        2. Herding Butterflies*

          +1 Agree completely. Look at it from your manager’s point of view. Parent-child dynamics are hard to uncouple even in the best of relationships. So, in a relationship like yours, a good manager will keep you apart.

          BTW, I have a very difficult relationship with my dad too. No WAY would I EVER want to work with him on a project. You have my sympathies.

        3. EPLawyer*

          This is my thinking. Leaving out the estranged part, I would not want a parent-child working together for a multitude of reasons. Even if they got along absolutely perfectly. Favoritism, not being able to critically assess the work being done (even if only collaborating) and falling into parent-child dynamics instead of being coworkers would all be concerns.

          If management is halfway decent, they would want to avoid having you work with your father, regardless of the relationship between you two.

          1. Database Developer Dude*

            EPLawyer, what if the parent-child were in the same department, but their work would probably never cross?
            My dad’s gone, but if I ever did work with my mom, she’d likely be a receptionist or admin person, while I’m a software engineer. We’d -see- each other during the day, but absolutely rarely work together on anything at all…. and we get along fairly well. No drama. (It helps that I’m the only one of her four kids who actually gives a rip about her).

        4. Mama Bear*

          Same here. You’re allowed to work in the same building as your relative/child/spouse, but there are guidelines about not being supervisors and the relationship must be disclosed. It’s generally not a problem unless people would be in a supervisory role over a relative. This can include project management roles.

      4. Duck Duck Goose*

        Thank you for breaking this down for that commenter. I’ve been estranged from my mother for four years now and ran into her at my sister’s high school play a couple weeks ago (I knew she would be attending that night – she deliberately sought me out to antagonize me) and I was incredibly upset and anxious about it for at least a week. Being estranged from a parent is completely, completely different than having a coworker you don’t like.

      5. Bila*

        Seconding going to Captain Awkward and having a deep, deep dive into the estrangement posts. Her scripts are awesome and there are often hidden gems int he comments.

        1. Estranged*

          I have never heard of Captain Awkward before and am intrigued, but also assume it will trigger feels. I’ll maybe wait until the weekend to take a look.

    5. Colette*

      There are some things you should suck up and ask professional – for example, a coworker talks to herself, always books you in meetings at the last minute, has a chronic cough, or otherwise does a relatively harmless or annoying thing.

      And then there are things you can and should speak up about – sexual harassment, racism, and, in this case, a family relationship. If the OP and her father were strangers before working together, it would be reasonable to expect them to be civil. But they’re not – there is a long family history that has led to estrangement, and that’s not something it is reasonable to expect either of them to ignore. Even if the OP is perfectly professional, having to deal with her father will sour her ability to do the job – nor will it mean that her father will be perfectly professional.

    6. Yorick*

      I think the advice could be different if Estranged was already required to work with the father’s team and there was really no way around it. But at this point, there’s just a possibility that they might need to work together, so the boss can probably work around it if something comes up.

  5. nnn*

    Another thought for #1: If your father knew you worked at this company, how would he react?

    If he would react by trying to avoid you too (which he might, since he’s the one who disowned you), it might be an idea to make sure you update your LinkedIn profile to reflect this job, make sure your name gets listed in the company directory, and whatever other steps you could reasonably take so someone who googles you finds out that you work there.

    That way, if your father wants to avoid you, you’re giving him the opportunity to do his part in avoiding you. (If he ever googles you, which he might.)

    Of course, if he would use the connection to harm you, you’ll want to do the opposite. Don’t update your LinkedIn immediately, go private, etc. Since you’re so new it would probably be a bit much to ask your employer to help you in concealing your presence from your father, but by giving your manager a heads-up about the connection and the estrangement, you’d be getting ahead on the messaging.

    In any case, you have more insight into how your father would react to your presence than we do, so keep that in mind when planning your approach.

    1. Estranged*

      This is a good point that I’ve been kinda … trying not to think about.

      My father thrives for appearances, so he’d probably not violently throw me under the bus or chase me across the room, but if he were assigned to work with me he’d probably go for it because it’d look weird to do anything else.

      And I absolutely wouldn’t put past him low-key intentionally harming my career by shit-talking me in a concerned dad way. “Oh, I just worry about her because…”

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Hmm. I wonder at what point that s-talking would become an HR problem. He is bringing personal life into work, causing drama, and I assume spreading lies or half-truths as some folks say. I would think it would be no different than if he started talking about Random Employee Bob. “I am worry about Bob, he has problems with blood sugar,drugs, abuse, whatever.”

        If you think this can happen, it might be worth considering giving your boss the heads up. I hope Alison sees this because you raise a good point.

        1. Estranged*

          I had considered it, then figured it might look like shit-stirring. It does reinforce for me that maybe I should flat-out say that he’s the one who ended the relationship because if it’s known that the animus is on his side, his thoughts about me might be taken with a larger grain of salt.

          1. Lance*

            I think it may be better to keep it neutral, and not assign any blame; the most they should need to know is that you two are related and don’t really get along, so you ideally shouldn’t be working together. Anything more than that feels… more involved than it needs to be.

          2. Shirley Keeldar*

            I think Estranged could say this without assigning blame and still sound very collected and professional. “My father and I are estranged. He’s chosen not to have a relationship with me.” No details, no mess, but it’s clear that there is zero relationship here and whose decision that was.

            So sorry for all the way this has taken the bloom off a new job for you, OP! May your boss be understanding and accommodating.

          3. Jules the 3rd*

            Meh – it’s so very easy for abusers to turn that around (I disowned them for Reason That Others Might Find Offensive! [eg, drugs]), I wouldn’t go there. Just stick with basic facts and request for action: ‘We’re estranged. Would it be possible, if our department works with him, for someone else to be the liaison?’

            And then try to forget about it and focus on being the best employee, and the best you. Slings and arrows of outrageous family will fail against the armor of your awesomeness…

          4. nnn*

            I do think saying outright “He disowned me three years ago” could be helpful, because it reinforces the fact that you don’t have control over the situation.

            And even though I just told you to think about how he’d react, it might be useful to say to your manager “He disowned me three years ago, so I’m not sure how he’d react to my presence or to working with me.”

            This reinforces the idea that it could be a bad idea to have the two of you in a room together, but also presents it as outside your control, and also doesn’t accuse your father of anything specific.

            1. Estranged*

              Thanks for the thoughtful back-and-forth on this!

              My father, as mentioned before, is very much appearance-focused and when facing the outside world a quintessential family man. I fear that not mentioning that he’s the one that ended the relationship could make me come across as the petulant child. But it is good to think of this from both angles.

              Regardless, reading both sides is helping me feel more comfortable and confidant in discussing this.

        2. RecentAAMfan*

          Ya, I agree with this but don’t forget, she’s new, he isn’t. So she has no capital, reputation etc to rely on.
          Avoidance would definitely be best!

      2. Bila*

        Is he a narcissist? Or even really, really selfish. If so, they absolutely want to maintain appearances. I’ve found with such people that the grey rock strategy is the absolute best way to go.

        I wish you so much luck with this.

        I’m sending you Jedi hugs and warm wishes.

        1. Estranged*

          I don’t know. If anything he’s controlling and deeply traditional. Which is where some concern comes in because he’s far senior to me in the parent company and depending on how things twist and turn he could have some control over me and aside from laying some groundwork now to prevent that from happening, there’s not much I can do.

          1. Glitsy Gus*

            Personally, I think the best course of action would be to give your manager the bare basics similar to Allison’s script for now. It puts it out there that yes, he’s your dad, no, you two aren’t in communication, and if possible it is probably best that you not work together. That is a good start and may handle everything. At this point, for all you know he will never even walk in the building and the only interaction you’ll ever have with him is seeing his name on a company-wide memo.

            Then just focus on building a good relationship with your manager and showing her that you have a good head on your shoulders and can do a good job. If, as time goes on, it does seem that your position may have enough crossover with your dad that he may be able to exert influence, at that point you will have built up enough capital with your manager to be able to go to her again and let her know that anything he says about you should be taken with a big block of salt and provide any further pertinent details that are relevant at the time. That way you have not just your work, but your established record to show that you aren’t bring drama, just stating facts.

  6. PNW_RN*

    Hmm. In some sectors of healthcare you have to wear facility issued scrubs, so you just change in the changing room with all your coworkers. It’s just not a big deal. All people have bodies. No one commented on anyone else’s anything, we just changed, kept our eyes up & moved on with our day. Although if I’ve learned anything from this site it’s that healthcare in general would put readers into palpitations- the boundaries are just so incredibly different.

    1. Lonely Aussie*

      Same in Ag, on biosecure sites. Strip down, dive in shower, get dressed into uniform and then shower out at the of the day. No one really pays that much attention to anyone else’s body or anything, although it’s not uncommon to show off the odd new tattoo, cool bra feature (“this front opening clasp is amazing” “It has pockets!”) or knarly looking wound/bruise. We always tell the newbies, treat it like it’s no big deal and it’ll be no big deal.

      Showered into and offsite with all levels of management and in all honesty, the most awkward bit is usually listening what sounds like a troll orgy coming through the (paper thin) wall to the blokes, even in if in my head I know it’s actually one of my coworker’s who has a super deep voice, no volume control and bunch of vocal ticks reminiscing about the old times (irregardless of whether or not anyone else is in the room with him).

    2. MK*

      But you don’t change your underwear, do you? I am not fussed about coworkers seeing me in my underwear, they are much less revealing than the swimsuit they would see me in if we met accidently at the beach. I wouldn’t feel comfortable getting completely naked though, which is likely to happen if you shower at the jym.

      1. Alice's Rabbit*

        If I’m covered in a patient’s bodily fluids, yes, I take a shower and change my underwear. Working on the maternity floor, this can happen more often than one might think.

        1. Harper the Other One*

          Oh, man, I remember the OB/GYN who delivered my son coming in with a pair of custom rubber boots. Since he was my first baby I naively asked why…

        2. Cindy Featherbottom*

          Second this. Even our hospital pharmacy has had these issues. Someone sent a urine sample through our tube system and sent it to the pharmacy instead of the lab. From what I heard, the poor person who was standing by the tube station got covered in urine as the container exploded. You’d be amazed at what fluids can end up on you in a hospital setting. And I can assure you if this happened to me, I’d be like Alice’s rabbit above and shower and change everything. No way I’d spend the rest of my shift or go home covered in someone’s fluids. If someone sees me naked at that point, I could care less.

          1. Quill*

            Oh my god, I figured you got puked on, bled on, and occasionally peed on in a hospital, but exploding pee samples in a pharmacy?

          2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

            Reason #284 why I don’t work in healthcare: Exploding pee containers delivered by tube.

          3. MatKnifeNinja*

            We had lab sent bloodwork to pharmacy by mistake, and the blood work explode in the tube.

            The memo, inservices and write ups oh my!

            Shut down the system for a week.

        3. pleaset*

          Also, if you’re in the military on a mission deep into enemy territory in a hot climate you might see other members of your team naked sometimes. So let’s all consider that possibility too.

        4. Asenath*

          One of my favourites, from a surgeon extolling the virtues of her new shoes: “And they don’t show blood!” Not perhaps one of the critieria I’ve ever used in choosing shoes, but different people have different needs.

          1. Quill*

            When my mom substitute taught, there was a running thing among the subs keeping track of who miraculously never had a kid puke in their room, who was a puke in the room magnet, and who had been puked ON.

            The last one wasn’t that common but people still made jokes about doing kindergarten and first grade during a schoolwide stomach bug “breaking their streak.”

            One of my friends also works at a school where the administration decided it was acceptable to just lock the bathrooms and not let anyone use them… and didn’t give any of the aides keys, so they’ve had a spate of children peeing their pants while an aide tries to track down a key so they can actually use the bathroom.

            1. Elitist Semicolon*

              How is that last not considered outright abuse? Those poor kids!

              When I was in middle school, I had a health/gym teacher who seemed inexplicably paranoid that a kid would throw up. Her level of concern increased significantly during the swimming unit, to the extent that if anyone looked even slighlty less than 100% she’d tell them to put their clothes back on and wait in the bleachers. Word finally trickled down from the older grades that one year, a kid had gotten out of the pool, thrown up on a towel and left it on the bleachers, then got back in the pool. Of course the teacher grabbed that towel to dry off when she got out.

              1. Quill*


                My friend took this one to the director of her program so hopefully they’ll get the bathrooms sorted.

    3. pleaset*

      “In some sectors of healthcare you have to wear facility issued scrubs,”

      Do people not wear underwear under the scrubs? I didn’t know that.

      1. PNW_RN*

        At least one med school handbook had “appropriate undergarments will be worn under scrubs” so yea, it takes all kinds. Also it’s not uncommon for ED/OR/LD to have showers bc ish happens

    4. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      Yeah, I worked at a gym (in the pool, so I was frequently fully naked in the shower stall or while changing clothes, or chatting with my boss as we showered in adjacent stalls.) It is 100% not a big deal as long as you’re changing mindfully, instead of strolling around naked to air dry or blowdrying your groin with the communal hair dryer.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        > or blowdrying your groin with the communal hair dryer

        Um. Um….. people really do this?

        (Of course they do. People can be terrible. And gross. This never crossed my mind. This never WOULD HAVE crossed my mind. My poor mind…. okay, off to r/eyebleach. And r/babyelephantgifs/, which is also useful.)

        1. Important Moi*

          Yes. It has been mentioned (maybe not here) that it is a thing that can happen more likely in men’s locker rooms.

          1. pancakes*

            I haven’t seen that happening or heard about it from friends, but this whole conversation keeps reminding me of a woman I used to regularly see in the locker room of one gym I went to — she’d put a towel on one of the seats by the blow dryers and dry her hair with two of them, one in each hand, while sat there in her birthday suit!

    5. BigLo*

      This is something where I’d probably just advise LW2 to do what everyone else is doing. If she notices most people are changing in the open, go with that. If more people are changing in stalls, that’s fine too.

  7. Lucky black cat*

    #1 I’d advise different language to “we don’t get along”. In my experience, some phrasing can invite unhelpful questions or unsolicited advice (people can react very oddly and insensitively to being told about estrangement). And that also suggests you actually have a relationship.

    I’m estranged from my family and I’ve found it works well if I just say they’re not in my life and that can’t change. But in your situation, it might make things easier if you feel able to tell them you were disowned – I know that must feel really painful, but it could help prevent any unsolicited advice (I think all estranged people will know what I mean by that).

    I’m really sorry that your new job is being affected by this, and I hope you’ll be very good to yourself right now.

    1. Lady Heather*

      I agree. Some people are very much of the “poor parent, ungrateful child” interpretation. Every estrangement is ‘obviously’ because the parent selflessly and lovingly raised their child and the child is holding a grudge over minor mistakes, right? And you should really make up before it’s too late or you’ll regret it for the rest of your life. At least according to some people.

      Particularly people who are parents themselves seem to be prone to this (though not all, and probably not even the majority).

      Or worse- they might try to assign you to projects together hoping you’ll make up.

      LW#1: I advise you to prepare a few scripts with things that are sufficiently vague, yet do convince the other that it’s not a ‘I’m still mad he ruined my life by not buying me a pony’.
      And know your manager – if they have a history of meddling, or of deifying parents, or you think they’re going to see themselves as a relationship repairperson, address any hinting at that immediately. I think by saying something like “I’d rather not discuss it, and I don’t think it’s up to me to make the first move anyway.”

    2. Lupin Lady*

      I like the simple wording “we’re estranged”. To me at least it seems powerful enough to not question, and also drama free. “I don’t get along with” is what I use to describe a slightly problematic person I’m still okay to sit next to at Thanksgiving.

      1. Joielle*

        Yeah, I came down here to say the same thing. “Estranged” at least nods towards the seriousness of the situation. “Don’t get along with” sounds a bit dramatic for work… like, yeah, all of us have relatives and coworkers and acquaintances that we don’t get along with, but we handle it. That’s not what’s going on here, though, so I think it’s important to use slightly stronger wording.

    3. Estranged*

      Good points by everyone.

      I dont know how my manager would handle this. He seems quite kind, but I also learned he and his wife have been trying to have a child and o welcome infertility issues, and I admit that made me wince because I worried it would affect his outlook on this matter.

      But really good points on verbiage. Maybe I do just say that *he* ended the relationship to cut to the chase.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Part of managing people is understanding that people have different needs in life and life is at a different stage for them. In other words, he can’t personalize the message.

        You never know how these conversations can go. He may blurt out, “Oh my spouse had a rough time with their dad (or he, with his dad) and I will do my best to keep your work away from him. Let’s keep this as an open ended conversation so if something comes up, you just come tell me.”

        1. Estranged*

          True. It just made me a little more anxious about a thing that was already making me anxious. Especially because I generally hate talking about anything personal.

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            I wish I could give you a hug and make you a nice comforting cup of tea. It sucks that you’re having to deal with this.

      2. Bila*

        I once had someone describe their status as “a serious break, unlikely to ever mend, caused by my father’s actions.” They also expressed a desire that it not be so, but, alas, they didn’t have a time machine to go back and tell him the damage his actions would cause.

        Estranged, you need to also remember that a lot of people who are jerks or even abusive to their families come across very, very differently to coworkers. My MIL is bipolar and an absolute horror show even when she’s 100% fully-medicated and in control. Yet, so few people who know her publicly ever, ever see this. So they don’t understand how her sons have moved across the US and to foreign countries.

        Even in healthy relationships, the way you view your parent is not the same way they are perceived by others. I’m sure my stepson views my husband as a harass, but most people who know him think he’s jovial. A lot of that is difference in personality and difference in relationships. When you add in estrangement or personality issues or mental or health issues, it’s a whole other ball of wax.

        I would not be surprised if people don’t believe you at first when you say this. But WE believe you. So if you need reassurance later on, please come back here to the open threads. Please.

        1. Bila*

          *Not that I don’t have empathy for MIL. Between her mental health issues and her life trauma, she’s understandably become so awful. But that doesn’t mean her sons have to put up with it and let her trample boundaries. Some of her behavior is not a choice. Some is. But that doesn’t change how it impacts those who are in her inner circle of family.

          A lot of people confuse having empathy with the perpetrator of boundary trampling and abuse as meaning you have to let them run roughshod b/c they can’t help it.

          In the moment, I don’t care if you step on my foot on purpose or on accident. I just want you off my foot. After that, we can discuss what to do to ensure no further footstepping occurs.

        2. Estranged*

          Thanks for all your supportive words across multiple comment threads, Bila.

          I’m unfortunately well aware of how differently my father can be perceived. He taught at my school back in the day, so I regularly got to hear about how wonderful he was from his students and coworkers.

          I’m leaning towards wanting to mention that he’s the one who ended the relationship for this exact reason. Folks might not believe me, but I’m certain that if I say nothing everyone who knows my father will assume that I’m the sticking point because he comes across as the quintessential and wonderful family man to … everyone outside his family.

          Luckily my direct manager does not know my father. He also seems like a pretty genuine fellow, so I’m hoping that if I tackle this right, he can direct things so that the fact that upper management does know my father isn’t an issue.

      3. Lauren*

        I don’t see how his circumstances have anything to do with you. People want kids. His relationship with his future kid has nothing to do with your estranged relationship with your father. I’d be more concerned that you might be in a profession with older folks who won’t understand estrangement as a thing or you are in some geographic area that treats parents as gods to be revered and obeyed at all costs.

        Also, if you think that there is the assumption that parents only disown kids with drug abuse issues, it would be better to give more context to deflect the estrangement as your fault or something you did. The last example below is one everyone can understand without details.

        – After my mother died, our relationship changed …
        – My father doesn’t approve of my spouse so he choose to stop speaking to me 3 years ago …
        – My father is a stubborn man and refused to see me as an adult, it came to a head 3 years ago and he has refused to speak to me ever since ….

        None of these are real details or the specific fights that lead to it, but context of things that are on him vs. some scary mystery thing you did that your father could allude to later.

        1. Estranged*

          You’re absolutely right and if I could edit my comments I’d have edited that out almost immediately after posting it. It doesn’t really affect anything, though since he happened to share that information while I was deep in “Should I warn him that I don’t get along with my father?” thought it spiked my anxiety enough to tie the two thoughts together even though that’s not fair to my manager.

  8. Rabbit*

    Apologies if this is a derail but after being reminded by the links I would really like to see an update to the 2nd linked post today…

  9. Introvert girl*

    #3 If these travels weren’t announced when negotiating the contract and were just “dropped” somewhere along the line, I would definitely ask for a reimbursement of petsitting or childcare costs. If a company expects an employee to drop everything and travel for two weeks because of a new project than that company should take all costst into consideration.

    1. Hekko*

      Perhaps negotiate for a raise (if it is a new responsibility) or a bonus (if it’s a temporary situation). Direct reimbursement may not be viable due to tax rules (it would definitely be impossible for my employer to expense a childcare/ pet sitting for an employee), but that doesn’t mean you can’t be compensated at all.

    2. Mockingjay*

      From a company perspective, though, at some point they have to cut off reimbursement costs. Businesses have budgets they have to stick to.

      For a one-off trip, large businesses can probably give an employee some extra dollars for inconvenience. Smaller businesses may not be able to do that. I work for a small business which invests an extraordinary amount into its employee benefits and salaries. To do so, they watch costs in every aspect of our business, including travel, to maximize profit to reinvest. Travel is budgeted at the beginning of the year and monitored closely because it’s one of our biggest expenses and it can chew into annual profit very quickly.

    3. Half-Caf Latte*

      One problem I have with the “negotiate a salary that offsets the travel impact” is the fact that lives/needs change.

      My friend has a job with several times a year travel. It was fine when she originally took the job, but she’s since married and now has two stepchildren and an infant at home. Stepkid also has behavioral issues, so carers are limited.

      1. Pobody’s Nerfect*

        But that was a personal choice and hopefully she would have considered the implications it would have for her job ahead of time, or would have talked to the powers that be about possible work arrangements if needed. The job can’t be held responsible for every family and personal decision every employee makes and then cover all costs related to those decisions, life doesn’t work that way. If people decide to have kids or pets, then they need to be able to afford/cover the costs of those personal responsibilities.

      1. JustaTech*

        Not actually answering your question, but since you said you have cats, have you tried an automatic feeder for short trips? I’ve had one for years to feed my cat dry food (she can’t free-feed). This is the one I use; I’ve had it for about 15 years and the only trouble I’ve ever had was when my cat figured out how to move the timer forward. http://www.super-feeder.com/csfmodel.html

    1. CM*

      Yes, I think this is the best way to handle this. One of your arguments for a raise could be your frequent travel and how you incur expenses every time you travel.

  10. Daniel Atter*

    I used to go to the gym with almost my whole team and we would sometimes end up all together in the steam room afterwards and it would become almost a team meeting with us all sitting there stark naked. Honestly, you just make sure you keep your eyes up at all times – eye contact only!

    I think it’s one of those things where it isn’t a thing unless someone MAKES it a thing (my old English teacher would not be impressed at three ‘things’ in a sentence!) If you are matter of fact about it, others will be too. Just don’t go ‘flaunting’ yourself more than someone normally would.

    1. Liisa*

      I fully agree. I live in Finland, where it’s not that uncommon to sit fully naked in the sauna with your coworkers. No one bats an eye – we’re all human and we all have bodies. If someone would make a fuss about it though? If someone would bring attention to the fact that we’re all naked? Things would become very awkward very fast.

      1. Joielle*

        This reminds me of the letter a while ago where the OP was worried about going to the sauna with coworkers because they had nipple piercings, and (if my memory serves) they wrote in with an update to say that it wasn’t an issue at all and everyone just sort of… ignored the fact that everyone else was naked. I think this was in a Scandinavian country and OP had recently moved there, so they weren’t familiar with the sauna culture.

        OP #2 – Just try to remember that people aren’t paying as much attention to you as it feels like they are. Don’t make it weird and it won’t be weird.

      2. Rewe*

        Fellow Finn here. I remember once when group of us went to swim and naturally were all naked in the communal shower. No individaul stalls. We hear a few Irish girls in the locker room saying “well, this is the closest thing to a prison I’ll experience”. We found this cultural shock quite entertaining.

        Yeah, it’s not weird to be naked with co-workers cause once you are all nude, you are on the same line and equally vulnerable . There is the unwritten rule of no jundegement.

    2. JustKnope*

      No!!! What! Maybe it’s cultural differences but this would absolutely be a thing to me and (I think) anyone I work with. That sounds like the most awkward circle of hell to me.

    3. Elemeno P.*

      A former coworker and I often went to the same gym sessions and just chatted while we changed next to each other. It was no big deal.

      I’m also a character performer in my off time, and the facility green room has two changing rooms in it. Some people change entirely by themselves and that’s fine, but usually we do the initial changing with more exposure as gender-segregated groups and come out to the main green room for the finishing touches that need someone else to help (zippers, laces, etc.). It’s only weird if you make it weird.

  11. April*

    #2, it would make my anxiety really flare up so I’d change in a stall very quickly, like just into dry clothes and shower, etc. at home. I wouldn’t be able to do it in front of coworkers, just hits all my uncomfortable buttons.

    1. Mel_05*

      Same. It also doesn’t help that my coworkers do like to nitpick about people behind their backs about things no grown adult should care about, so I would definitely be concerned about that aspect too.

    2. pamplemousse*

      I don’t particularly care about being naked in front of other people but a few of my direct reports go to my gym and I don’t want THEM to feel awkward, just as I absolutely do not want to see my colleagues naked. (I actually wondered for a second if I wrote this letter.) A few things I do:

      –I do not acknowledge coworkers at the gym unless it’s absolutely unavoidable, doubly so in the locker room. I’ll usually say something later — “hey! I saw you at the gym yesterday but you seemed focused on your workout so I didn’t interrupt. hope you didn’t think I was being rude!”
      –If no one is using the toilet stalls and I think or know there are colleagues at the gym at the same time as me, I’ll change in one.
      –Otherwise, locker in a corner, face the wall, change quickly.
      –If I take a shower, I take my clothes off in the shower stall and then put my bra and underwear on under the towel out in the main locker room.
      –If I can, I sometimes change in my office bathroom so I just have to stash my stuff in the locker room and can get in and out.

  12. Coffee Cup*

    As someone who is estranged from her mother, the thought of the possibility of having to work with her sends shivers down my spine. I have actually been thinking about this since I read the post. I think I would risk a lot of things, including quitting on the spot, to avoid that happening. All my sympathies to the poster.

    1. Amethyst*

      I’ve been estranged from my mother for the last 4 years & do NOT want any form of contact with her. She’s a very unhappy, rage-filled (toward me) woman, & the only way I could protect myself from her unreasonable anger is by dropping all contact with her.

      The reason for her anger: To her, I represent everything bad that happened in her life. All her traumas, all the anger toward those who hurt her has been directed at me from the moment I was born & she realized I wasn’t an actual doll who’d sit on a shelf & have no needs until she was ready. She wasn’t ready to be a parent (I was their accident) & blames me for everything cuz it’s easier. In her mind, I am “bad” & will always be bad. There’s no redemption for me. After decades of trying to repair our nonexistent relationship, I had to walk away.

    2. Estranged*

      I appreciate your sympathy. I got a good 45 minutes of reveling in getting my dream job before this bomb was dropped on me.

      And my father is topically perfect whereas I’m a bit of a weirdo, and he’s been with the parent company for, like, 10 years. So … not feeling like people will believe me over him if it comes down to it.


      1. SigneL*

        Oh, man, that sounds awful. I hope your manager is a reasonable person and that you can build up some credit with them. And I hope your father isn’t vindictive. Best of luck!

      2. Kt*

        Weirdo love & support, from one to another!

        You’re in a really tough situation, and it sounds like anxiety and fears are really nipping at your heels. Maybe it will all be as terrible as could possibly be….. or maybe you’ll be in a place where you’re valued for your weirdoness and your contributions, and your manager will say, Oh, we’ll make sure you never work with him!, and it’ll be revealed your dad has alienated half the company and so people like you better, and you’ll have an excellent career-building position.

        I know it’s really hard right now, but you are just as worthy as he is and probably more so. Try not to let your fears set the direction before you know how things at this company actually work. Somehow unexpectedly you could still come out the winner. Virtual hugs & support.

      3. Pommette!*

        Blargh indeed.

        My father and I aren’t estranged, but we have a very distant and very strained relationship. He’s always done well at work, in part because he took out all of his stress on us at home. A colleague of his tried to intercede in our relationship because “he’s such a great person”. Just, no. Don’t do that. She 100% thinks that I’m the mean, petty, weirdo in this story. So you have my weirdo sympathy and well wishes, for what they’re worth.

        But really, the scenario you describe (the perfect seeming parent and the visibly imperfect child who are estranged) feels like a really, really common one. Not that being in good company minimizes the unpleasantness of the situation in any way… but there is a real chance that the people you disclose to won’t try to judge your relationship through the lens of his professional polish or your weirdness (or even better: won’t try to judge your relationship, period). I hope that you get the support you need to navigate this messy situation!

      4. Blueberry*

        All my sympathy and good wishes go out to you. I really hope they believe you and I have faith that Alison’s framing will help.

      5. Not So NewReader*

        Just throwing out one thought- my mother only pulled her crap when no one was around. So I might see if I could fix it so I was never alone with her at work. Like you say, she was more concerned about appearances than what was really going on. Her game was exhausting and I did not want to play anymore.

        But as you think this through, it might be a temporary solution to just aim for not being alone with him so yu can stay at the job and see how it goes.

        But, ya know what? If you quit on the spot on your next work day, I would not blame you in the least. I totally get it.

      6. Estranged*

        Okay, it’s terrible that so many people have estranged parents, but thanks for sharing that terribleness with me. It really does help to make me feel like less of a special case drama-llama.

      7. Estranged*

        And I do, too, have hope that this’ll all be moot. I think I’m going to wait a few days to talk to my manager, juuust to make sure I don’t come across too strongly about something that isn’t probable, but when I do I promise I’ll report back with a new comment on this post with how it went because I so appreciate everyone sharing their stories and supporting me.

    3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Same. I’m so grateful that my estranged father and I are in significantly different industries so that I have next to no chance of encountering him in a work context.

  13. Alice's Rabbit*

    #3 When I was a kid, I used to pet sit for my neighbors. It was an easy way to earn a little cash. Maybe make friends with your neighbors, and see if there’s a kid who could do the same for you. Could save a small fortune, and your pets would have more one-on-one attention.

    1. Lyudie*

      Personally I would not trust the neighbor kid to be sole caregiver for my two cats for two or three nights at a time. I’m paying for a professional with insurance and knowledge of what to do in event of an emergency.

      1. Lyudie*

        That came off a bit harsh. If the cats are young and healthy and generally self-sufficient, this could be ok. But if they need meds or are older or have any health issues, I would not do this. My cat has kidney issues and even though he is generally ok, I want someone with experience with cats and knowledge who will spot if something is not right and actually come regularly and stay to spend time with them.

        1. cat socks*

          I would pet sit for the neighbors when I was in high school. I had to give one of the cats a shot for his diabetes. I think this is definitely a “know your sitter” thing. I agree that if the cats are healthy a generally responsible person can provide food/water and clean the litter boxes. I’ve had cats with fairly serious health issues and ended up boarding them because they needed special care.

          1. Quill*

            Once I had to be the diet enforcer for a very fat black tuxedo cat who was trying to crowd out the new kitten by eating her food. Fortunately for me, Wellington (the elder cat) had been raised by dogs so I could pretty much pick him up and cart him around the house, scratching his chin, until the kitten had a chance to eat undisturbed.

            Another time one of my duties was to *find* the cats before I left, because there was some architectural feature of the new-to-them house that the owners thought they could get stuck in, and couldn’t reliably seal off. I found one of them hiding inside a recliner.

      2. Turquoisecow*

        I dunno, I think I might, depending on the kid. Cats are pretty easy if you don’t have one with extra medical needs – food, litter changing, maybe a bit of play. They don’t need walks or extra attention the way that dogs do.

        I have two cats and for a while I had a nearby coworker come over when I was away. It took her maybe all of twenty minutes and she didn’t need to do anything fancy. Since she moved away, we’ve had to hire a cat sitter but her visits also don’t take a lot of time, even with giving the one cat medication.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          OP 3 a few things to consider is getting your cat an automatic feeder, and water fountain. I purchased one of each and it has been great. The water fountain not only encourages cats to drink more water, but it also has a very big reservoir and keeps the water clean for a longer period of time. The one I have can last about a week. The automated pet feeder is great. You can set up to 4 different feedings per day. Each feeding can be set for a certain time, turned on/off independently, and set for a different feeding portion. Once a feeding is on it will keep releasing food at the same time everyday. The feeder has a food reservoir that can last at least 2 weeks.

          This has allowed me to be out late with out worrying about my cat, keeping him on a consistent feeding schedule etc. It has also allowed me to occasionally be gone for one overnight if I need to without worrying about the cat. If I am gone for more than one night, I hire a pet sitter to come every other day to clean the litter and play attention to my cat, they don’t usually have to worry about feeding the cat.

          YMMV currently my cat if fairly young and healthy, if a cat has any special needs this might not be as helpful.

          1. JustaTech*

            Depending on the auto-feeder you can have it go off way more than 4 times a day. My cat has eating issues (gobbles and chokes) so she gets tiny portions about 8 times a day/night. It is fantastic for traveling, too, because she’s used to the feeder and isn’t stressed by a change to her food routine.

            1. CmdrShepard4ever*

              Yes, I have seen some new wifi feeders, that you can set on a timer, but you can also dispense at will via your phone, or ones that have a screen for your pet to see you and a camera to check in on your pet.

      3. Quill*

        It’s going to have to depend on your cat’s needs & comfort level with strangers. I made plenty of money as a young teen dog and cat sitting, including walking, ensuring that the fat older cat didn’t just chow the kitten food before the kitten could eat, etc. If you have to give a cat a pill and it doesn’t already have a relationship with a sitter, I’d probably go with a professional, and most of my gigs were 3 days or less anyhow.

        Then again, I always sat for people who I knew pretty well and whose pets already knew me: neighbors, families of classmates, that sort of thing. If you don’t know any neighbor kids or your cat is slow to trust, absolutely go with a professional if you’re more comfortable.

      4. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        In most of those “neighbor kid” situations, the parent is also providing some level of backup monitoring of their kid, which is why it works best with a family you actually know pretty well. You need to have a sense of both how responsible the kid tends to be and how likely the parents are to notice and intervene if the kid flakes out or makes a mistake. I certainly remember pet sitting for neighbors when I was a kid, but those were indoor/outdoor cats and all I needed to do was go add food to the food dish once a day for a week. (They kept a window slightly open so the cats could come and go as they pleased.) I think my parents made a checklist for me at home so I could check off if I’d been over that day and if so at what time so they could tell I was following through.

        When I was an adult working as a professional pet sitter, I did once pick up a client because the last time she’d hired her neighbor kids and she’d come home to both of her indoor cats having been left outside while she was gone, though. One of her cats was a known escape artist and escaped for me too (she warned me about him because it sounds like it happened all the time when she was home as well – she also left directions about how to catch him again if it happened) but, unlike the neighbor kid, I made a point of sticking around and catching the cat again so he was promptly returned inside. (He pretty much just wanted to make a circuit of the outside of the apartment building, after which he was perfectly happy to be picked up, carried back up 3 flights of stairs, and delivered to his nice warm bed and kitty food situation. Not a hard cat to catch.)

    2. AnnaS*

      Same here, I used to cat-sit for my piano teacher’s cat. I lived nearby, I loved the cat so gave it not just food but lots of attention, the piano teacher trusted me, so everyone was happy. I think she paid me the equivalent of 1 euro per day, which for 10- or 11-year-old me added up really fast and in hindsight must have been pretty cheap for her, so everyone was happy about that aspect as well.

      1. OP3*

        I live in a large apartment building and did have a few neighbors stopping by to feed them for awhile (for a fee), but they were never as punctual or on top of the cats’ care as professionals. I now use a vet technician from their animal hospital, but he comes with a much steeper cost ($35 a visit!) and my cats are used to being fed in the morning and evening, so if I want him coming twice, that’s $70/day. I do have an auto feeder and and a water fountain which helps to stretch out time between visits or limit them to one a day, but this gives some background to the costs I was referring to in the original post.

  14. Whoop*

    My company has a gym on site, and you just… don’t make a big deal of it. Everyone’s in the same situation. I’ve been in gym classes with my head of department, so we’ve been changing at the same time, and polite fiction is maintained. Just avert your eyes, get showered/changed quickly, and get on with your day.

    I know it’s probably easier said than done, but everyone who goes to the gym knows this is the deal in changing rooms. Most people there will be doing the same as you and trying to just get on with it, and no one is going to be looking at you/thinking about you when they’re focused on themselves.

    1. Colette*

      Exactly. Minimize your nakedness and ignore everyone else’s. And change facing your locker – it minimizes the number of people you see, and that can help you focus on changing without worrying about everyone else.

      1. Jdc*

        Most locker rooms I’ve ever been in people wrap their towel, pull their undies up under, drop the towel and continue dressing. This limits nudity. Of course most locker rooms I’ve been to also have the obligatory nude old person who refuses to put on clothes and lounges around. I could care less about changing in front of anyone but i surely won’t be blow drying my body nude in the presence of others.

      2. Third or Nothing!*

        Great tip! My gym is really small so there is rarely another soul in the locker room with me. The few times I’ve had to change with another woman in there, I just turned my back to her.

    2. Spreadsheets and Books*

      Same. My last company had a gym on-site, shared with our sister company. The corporate office for my was quite small, so I knew pretty much everyone there. It seemed weird at first but I got used to it pretty quickly. You’re there to work out and so are they.

    3. CM*

      We have one on-site at work too. I do find it a bit awkward in several ways — changing, and trying to exercise authority over someone who just saw me sweating and wearing leggings, and saying to someone that I’m too busy to work on their project today but then they see me at the gym. (I’m not a machine, I need to get up from my desk sometimes and move!)

      But, the awkwardness is entirely in my head. Nobody has ever said to me “Too busy, huh. You weren’t too busy to spend twenty minutes on the treadmill!” or “I don’t have to listen to you, I saw your underpants!”

      And yes, just pretend like nobody else is in the locker room with you. I do see people using the toilet stalls to change, and it is annoying when the stalls are full of changing people and there’s a line of people who actually need to use the toilet. Please don’t do this unless it is really painful for you to change out in the open like everyone else.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Ok but now I want to find ways to work “I don’t have to listen to you, I saw your underpants!” into conversation…

    4. JustaTech*

      Exactly this. Treat your coworkers like anyone else in the locker room (ie, don’t look, don’t talk) and it’s fine.

      The only time I ever had coworker awkwardness in the gym was when I was lying on the mat doing crunches and the head of the other half of my lab decided to come over and chat. Which would have been fine but he was wearing running shorts (ie, very short) and where he stood to talk to me meant that I was basically looking up his shorts. I stood up, we kept chatting, and he left for more of his workout. If he’d been wearing different shorts, or didn’t stand directly over my head (I’m sure he was trying to position himself so he wasn’t looking up *my* shorts) it would have been totally fine.

  15. embertine*

    I’m not sure all of the comments responding to LW2’s “I’m not comfortable with my colleagues seeing my genitals” with “well, BE comfortable” are very helpful.

    1. Asenath*

      They seem to break down between “use a cubicle” (and I’d add if the gym doesn’t have at least a few private cubicles so you don’t have to use a toilet cubicle, that could probably be addressed with the gym management) and “you do get used to it”, which are both helpful in different ways. Not everyone is going to find the same approach helpful, since people have such different reactions to nudity. I tend to the more modest side myself, but when I can’t find a free cubicle, which is nearly always since cubicles are more popular than the main changeroom, I have to admit I don’t cover up totally – I have gotten a bit used to changing in public, even when there are other women I know (but who are not close friends, kind of like co-workers) present. So I’d go for “use a cubicle, but you will probably get more comfortable in the main changing room as time goes on.”

      The only really unhelpful comments on this sort of topic I ever heard were about local girls on a school trip to a part of Europe where nudity is more common than here (well, that’s probably ALL of Europe!) and some of them were mocked later by their chaperones because they refused to go swimming if they had to shower in the nude. I had a lot of sympathy for the girls, and even if I hadn’t, I think they should have chosen what they were most comfortable with even if it was not swimming. Same thing in this case – try cubicles, try the changeroom (with large towels if needed) and see what works/what you’re comfortable with.

      1. Enough*

        Yes, do what makes you comfortable. In college there was the same issue. I would come out wrapped in my towel and just leave the bathroom and walk to my room. Another girl would change from her towel to her bathrobe by putting the bathrobe over the towel and then take off the towel. Both the towel and robe where long.

      1. pancakes*

        A reminder that we all have bodies isn’t telling anyone what to do with theirs, though. It’s not as if someone can be forced to feel at ease when they’re not.

    2. CM*

      I didn’t read LW2’s letter as saying “I’m not comfortable” — if they had such a strong reaction the answer would probably be “go to a different gym” or “don’t use the shared locker room.” I read the letter as saying, “won’t this be awkward? What should I do about it?” and the majority response is, “Yes, it is awkward, it’s awkward for everybody, and generally we all handle it by participating in a polite fiction that we don’t see each other changing.”

      1. JustaTech*

        Never underestimate the power of the polite fiction that “we’re all not here” to make life bearable. It’s something we do all the time, in public bathrooms, on airplanes or the bus, and in locker rooms.

        There are many ways to approach changing in the locker room (the towel method, the many layers of clothing method, the heck with it but really fast method) but all methods assume that everyone just wants to be ignored and get out quickly.

    3. remizidae*

      That’s kind of how life works, though? You’re not comfortable with a new experience, but you want to do it, so you get used to it. Otherwise no one would ever get over the discomfort associated with going to the gym, driving, going to a new job, trying a new sport, etc etc.

    4. Database Developer Dude*

      As someone who is not very modest, I still very much co-sign on your comment, embertine. Consent is a thing. “BE comfortable” is not at all helpful…. and if I were in the situation, I wouldn’t care who saw me naked.

    5. Anon for this*

      THANK YOU. Frankly the amount of people telling someone to be naked in front of other people in this thread is rather horrifying. You are NEVER obligated to be naked in front of another person, EVER.

      (Medical situations aside, but even then if you’re conscious enough to care, you technically have the right to refuse.)

      1. Buzz*

        I mean, maybe don’t go to the gym your co-workers go to, if you feel that strongly about it? No one should HAVE to be naked in front of others, absolutely, but it’s normal in gym changing rooms. If you’re uncomfortable, you can go to a different gym, or exercise at home, or something else.

      2. pancakes*

        You’re speaking as if there will be readers learning about gym locker rooms for the very first time from these comments, and coming away thinking that changing clothes in a locker room is mandatory. Neither seems at all likely. Surely any such people would realize they haven’t yet been forced to use gym locker rooms, let alone take their clothes off in one?

        1. Anon for this*

          “Surely any such people would realize they haven’t yet been forced to use gym locker rooms, let alone take their clothes off in one?” No, not everyone. Peer pressure is extremely powerful– I cannot emphasize that enough! How much advice is about working past the pressure not to “rock the boat” even when someone else started the rocking?– and there’s a distinct thread of “that’s normal, get over it” in these comments. I learned how to push back on things like this in sheer self-defense, but my experience in that area is definitely not normal. It is very important that people be TOLD it’s all right not to undress if they don’t want to.

          Also from my experience, yes, it may not be common but it is possible to reach adulthood without knowing that people change in locker rooms.

      3. Rexish*

        The question is not about op being forced to undress in front of others (that would be a very disturbing issue). Op, is saying that she is in general comfortabl being naked in changing rooms. She has yet to encounter a co-worker there but is worried about the awkwardness of them both being naked. I think telling op that everyone is weird about it but you get used to it is a valid advice.

      4. Tea Fish*

        Sorry, what? This is a really extreme and inaccurate reading of most of the comments, and completely ignores the context the OP provided. Literally nobody has told the OP that they HAVE to get NAKED in front of other people. The OP has a ton of options if they find this whole situation too uncomfortable, starting at the most obvious being “Then just don’t use that gym” followed by “Or any gym, ever, if you still find it too weird,” because a gym locker room is a normal place for people to be briefly naked, and anyone who wants to make use of one does in fact have to get suck it up and get used to it. Nobody is obligating anyone else to get naked or go to gyms, or telling OP what to do with their bodies.

    6. pleaset*

      “Be comfortable” is too much.

      “You could try becoming comfortable” seems reasonable to me. I’ve certainly worked to become more comfortable with things. It’s possible, though often some lesser discomfort remains.

    7. Diamond*

      No way would I want my boss to see me naked. Other random people – whatever. But if work colleagues attend the same gym I’m changing in a cubicle (which… I don’t see why that’s a difficult solution?)

  16. WG*

    With the type of situation in #3, there’s also the perspective that since employers shouldn’t be involved in what employees choose to do outside of work, employees can’t then expect employers to cover the cost of those choices. I agree with Alison that if a person is in a role that doesn’t normally require travel but is helping out the employer by traveling, the employee could ask for help with additional costs incurred by traveling in that case.

    We each as individuals have choices for our careers and our lifestyles and need to prioritize and choose for ourselves how to achieve what we want. If there is something that I want (family, pets, a particular hobby), I have to decide how to balance a job/career with the time and financial commitment for that choice.

    1. Agnes*

      Yeah, I don’t altogether buy this, but if you had to hire someone to mow your lawn while you were gone, even though you normally did it yourself, you probably wouldn’t expect them to cover it. I think it’s the same logic.

      1. Lynn Whitehat*

        That’s how I see it. Most of us have responsibilities outside of work, whether it’s children, pets, elder care, house work, volunteer work, or whatever. If we go out of town, those responsibilities get pushed onto someone else (paid or unpaid) or dropped on the floor. It seems like there would be no end to it if you expensed all the outward ripple effects.

        1. Kaitlyn*

          But there’s a difference between a minor cost and an undue hardship. If someone who works part time from home is expected to come into the office for a week (like I sometimes do for events), I charge my travel costs back to the company, and deduct my son’s travel expenses and childcare expenses from my own income at tax time. If you went on a business trip for a month, and it hadn’t been flagged for you at hiring time yeah, I might try to negotiate for the cost of house upkeep, including pet care, while I was gone.

          I tried negotiating for a childcare stipend at my last contract renewal – they were unable to do that, but could offer a slight rate premium for on-site hours, which helped a bit.

        2. Meepmeep*

          In this case, no one with primary caretaking responsibilities would be able to work. And we are back to the 1950’s.

          1. PlanAhead*

            There are plenty of double income families that include kids and two parents outside the home…..trust me, we don’t get reimburse for child care so I can simply work.

            I agree with the previous posters–if you select a job which includes travel, you need to be prepared to fulfill that part of your job without pushing the cost of pet sitting/childcare to your employer (or other costs which can become a slipperly slope). If it’s a one-off, then I think it’s more of a conversation.

    2. Not Me*

      There’s a big difference between what an employer is required to do (pay us for work) and benefits provided by employers to keep their staff engaged and productive (provide a small reimbursement for dependent care while traveling).

      Suggesting employers shouldn’t be involved in what employees choose to do outside of work is just silly in this context. Personal lives impact the workplace all the time because we’re….human. When you ask an employee to be away from their home and life for an extended period of time it’s reasonable to understand that will impact things outside of work, and a good manager/employer will look for ways to mitigate that.

    3. Kaitlin Marie*

      I completely agree with this perspective. It’s unfair for people to be paid more because they chose to have children. If this did happen, would discrimination laws be applicable because the decision would consider a person’s familial status?

  17. ShwaMan*

    For #1, I don’t think I’d be comfortable giving as much detail as Allison suggests, especially as a brand-new hire. I think it would be fine to a little more vague, and say something like “I don’t know if it would happen anyway, but if in the future if our team would have to work on something that involved my father, would it be possible to have someone other than me handle it? I’d like to avoid that dynamic for a couple of reasons.” Their response should help you determine if this is a good job fit for you in the long run.

    1. Estranged*

      The only thing I worry is that the lack of … importance in that phrasing might mean he’d forget or assume it’s for something banal and he won’t take it as seriously.

      But it’s a good idea and if I wimp out on going straight for it, this could be a good alternate.

      1. Reba*

        You could start with this, and then if it seems like the boss is not reading between the lines enough/taking it seriously, go for the longer script.

        Remember that to an extent, your listener will take the cue from you. So you want to strike a tone that’s both “this is serious” and “of course they will work with your reasonable request as we are all reasonable people here”. It doesn’t have to be a drama-thon, it *is* a reasonable request.


          1. Not So NewReader*

            Unfairly, without fear there is no courage.

            I do really recommend getting a vision in your mind’s eye of what you want and where you need to land in order to keep this job. Get that picture in your head and keep it at the forefront of your thinking.

            See, once you define what you need, then it is just a matter of making a path to that solution.
            Remember, they HIRED you. They found something worthwhile in you. Hang on to this.

  18. Amy*

    I’ve lived most of my life in Manhattan and now live in an expensive suburb of the city. I have cats and children and travel 2-3x per month. Sometimes I feel like we’re bleeding money at every moment.

    Still if someone in the office wanted to expense 60-$100 a night on cat feeding, I would be very taken aback. It’s both outside of work norms and an extremely high price point, even for NYC. I could possibly understand requesting $25 a day but this feels really out of sync and invites questions like “have you looked for teenagers in the building?” and “have you shopped around?” And I don’t think you want that level of employer scrutiny in your personal life.

    1. TL -*

      If these are multiday (but not multiweek) trips, the LW could also buy an automatic feeder, a filtered water fountain, and a self-cleaning litter box (assuming her cat doesn’t need meds or wet food) and the cat would be okay.

      If the cat does need special care, the pet sitting bill makes more sense (maybe a pet loving roommate?). But I don’t know that most companies would cover pet care, even if they covered childcare.

      1. RC Rascal*

        I wouldn’t trust the automatic feeders. I had one so my diabetic kitty could get a meal during the day at work and also one overnight. ( he coulda only go about 6 hours before he got hangry.). Cat used to beat the auto feeder for more food. As a result of the beatings it misfired a lot. Cat was very large and strong (22 lbs) and he just tore the feeders up.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          I found one that I really like and that has worked great for us for the occasional overnight trip, or not getting home til late at night.

          The previous one I had my cat figured out how to open it pretty quickly, but the current one the cat has not been able to open. I do think that the quality of the feeder makes a big difference.

    2. OP3*

      I answered this above so sorry to repeat myself but: I did have neighbors in my apartment building feeding them previously and found that not to be dependable/the level or care not to be up to par with professionals, though it was much cheaper. I now use a vet technician from their animal hospital (one of my cats is blind so it helps that he knows him, etc.) but this comes at a higher cost ($35/visit, sometimes at twice a day as they’re used to being fed twice a day). I do have an auto feeder and water fountain but I wouldn’t trust these as their solo means of care. I realize I choose an expensive level of care, and wouldn’t expect my company to pay for all of it, but some reimbursement would be extremely helpful considering I travel frequently and end up spending a large amount of money to travel on required work trips I have no say about attending.

  19. blackcat*

    I have a follow up/related question to #3: What about fly-out job interviews? I’ve never asked, but I easily incur $1-200 in childcare costs because my partner’s work schedule doesn’t allow him to do daycare pick up. So we have to pay a sitter to do that.
    I’ve never asked and always just sucked it up (I’m in academia, FWIW), but this question got me wondering. Is it reasonable to ask in that context?

    1. BethDH*

      It would be completely unheard of for any academic job I’ve ever seen. So much so that I suspect that even asking could get you taken out of consideration. Same for conference travel. I think it’s partly that these activities are seen as being for your personal benefit even when they’re also for the institution, and partly that having kids or pets is seen as a personal or even lifestyle choice. You’re supposed to know that a certain amount of babysitting will be needed, and that a certain amount of travel will be required. I have a small child and have recently been in this situation, so I sympathize with the financial stress but I also wouldn’t risk asking.

      1. blackcat*

        Yeah, that’s where I’ve always fallen, but this made me think.
        I already had to ask for pumping breaks during one job-search season and that was…. interesting.

        1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          It really isn’t, though. Spontaneous, drop in childcare has an alarming number of safety issues.

          1. Amy*

            I have young children and I use spontaneous drop-in childcare frequently. At the gym, during preschool breaks, on vacation, at a conference.

            I’ve never been alarmed and don’t view it as inherently risky.

          2. Crivens!*

            I don’t think the care being provided IS spontaneous, drop-in childcare. It’s preplanned care offered by the conference.

          3. Alton*

            I don’t really see a big issue with it, assuming the venue has vetted the people who are providing the childcare and they have sufficient resources and are able to handle the liability. I think it’s partly a “know your kid” thing, too. If a child has allergies or other medical needs, for example, that’s something to keep in mind when choosing childcare.

    2. Lady Heather*

      I wouldn’t have the guts to do that – I’d be afraid of appearing inflexible or demanding and I wouldn’t want to increase the chances of coming across as such in an interview. Then again, I don’t have a job in academia, or the US, so maybe you won’t.

      That said – Alison often advices that one should wait to ask for accommodations etc (ADA, work from home, preferring to work 8-4 instead of 9-5, …) until you have a job offer in hand – and I’d think that this one falls under that ‘rule’, also.

      I can’t look into your wallet (or any other areas of your life), obviously. But, I’d weigh the 200 dollar against the risk of making a negative first impression (and I mean negative more in ‘no one likes to spend money’ than in ‘you’re in the wrong’) and decide whether it’s worth it to you.

    3. Jdc*

      Oh gosh don’t ask. That’s your expense, you are choosing to go there. They are nice enough to perhaps cover travel because you are a strong enough candidate.

    1. Bagpuss*

      Unless she has explicitly ben told that the information is confidentail, I don’t think that she has any obligation at all not to say anything. It is reasonable for her not to name the company involved since that isn’t relavant to her job search, but it is the reason for the job search so it wouldn’t be appropriate for her to potenatilly disadvantage herself by not giving an explanation.

      given that she says ‘it’s been announcned’ it seems unlikely that it is super-confidential (and I would expect her employer to have specifed, when making the announcement, the the information was to be treated as confidential if that were the case)

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Well it depends on the OP’s position.

      Unless she’s upper management/leadership, the fact she knows about the looming layoffs pretty much means it’s public information. You don’t tell groups of people outside of that core leadership group about pending layoffs for the reason that you cannot easily restrict others from giving the information out as they see fit.

  20. RumbaWaltz*

    #3: Regardless of the historical reasons for child/pet care not being reimbursed by employers, in 2019 it boils down to you making a personal choice to have children or pets, so it’s your responsibility to cover the costs of their care. You wouldn’t be incurring those expenses if you didn’t have said child or pet, so your employer shouldn’t be giving you a benefit that your coworkers may not have access to. That said, if travel wasn’t a part of the job description or it’s exigent travel/travel that could be done by someone else, it can’t hurt to ask. But if you knew the job involved travel when you took it? Sorry, but that’s on you.

    1. Ali G*

      yeah this is where I fall on this. I chose to get a dog knowing that my job involved travel (and I was single too at the time). Those are costs I have to incur to have to pet (or kid) that I want.
      That said, I did once get the expense of additional dog walks covered when I was ask to step into a trade event on the weekend when my coworker had an emergency. It was true that I couldn’t do it unless I paid my dogwalker extra to come on the weekend to let my dog out (luckily it was local so I didn’t need a sitter). The company agreed because it was an emergency and over the weekend (so not business as usual).

    2. blackcat*

      I agree with your conclusion, but not with the premise that ” your employer shouldn’t be giving you a benefit that your coworkers may not have access to.” There are all sorts of benefits that one person gets access to that another doesn’t as a result of personal choices. Ex: lots of places will subsidize transit passes but not parking, offering a benefit to those who chose to live in places where transit is accessible. A number of my friends have jobs that require lots of travel that paid for MilkStork when they had a young infant, which is pretty directly analogous to providing a travel-related childcare stipend.
      Parental leave, medical leave for optional stuff (ex cosmetic surgery), and tuition benefits are all stuff that lots of reasonable employers will provide without making sure it’s “fair” to all employees. The goal is to provide benefits to keep workers happy. Sometimes that means providing extra stuff to support working parents while their kids are young. Sometimes it means being more flexible with remote work if someone has an ailing parent who lives far away.

      1. kristinyc*

        Agree with this. At our open enrollment meeting, our HR made a big deal about how our health benefits include a great smoking cessation program and a weight loss program, both that came with prizes for meeting milestones. Not everyone needs those programs obviously, but I’m sure the people who do need/want them appreciate them. I used our parental leave this year, and obviously most people did not.

        I think it comes down to offering a variety of useful benefits so that people have what they need to work and live their lives.

      2. Public Sector Manager*

        Employee health care is an area where employees frequently get additional benefits other employees don’t, solely based on an employee’s personal life choices.

        I work for a public agency and my employer pays 90% of our health care premiums, regardless of which one we pick.

        If Employee A is single, the monthly premium is basically $700. So our agency pays $630 for Employee A. If Employee B has 2 or more dependents, it’s $1,800 per month in premiums. My agency is paying $1,620 per month for Employee B and the agency isn’t paying Employee A an extra $1,000 per month to make the employees equal with their personal life choices.

        Should my agency give each employee $1,620 per month to make them equal? Sure. But they don’t, and no one seems to notice or care.

    3. Colette*

      There are lots of benefits not everyone can access so, while that might be part of the justification, it’s a poor one.

    4. soon 2be former fed*

      This is a bit harsh.” Giving a benefit that coworkers may not have access to is problematic”. All employees have access to all benefits, they just may not need them at any point in time. Circumstances change. Folks without pets or children may have parents that they are responsible for. I have 20/20 vision, does that mean the employer shouldn’t offer coverage for eyeglasses and contacts? I have a lot of houseplants that could not survive extended periods without care (don’t like cactus, lol). Everyone has a different life, and employers recognizing the disruption that travel causes, whether you knew about it or not when you took the job, is a good and compassionate thing to do. People who are not worried about basic aspects of their lives are more focused and productive employees.

    5. Janet, Sower of Chaos*

      “You made a personal choice to have children, so it’s your responsibility to save vacation time to recover from childbirth.”

    6. Database Developer Dude*

      Based on this, employees should then not get health care coverage for a spouse because other employees might be single? This makes no sense to me. Employers offer benefits to attract employees. If the employee can’t take advantage, that’s their individual issue. Just like someone can choose to get a pet, have a spouse and/or kid, they can choose not to, and deal with the consequences of those choices.

    7. ceiswyn*

      I also wouldn’t be incurring those expenses if my employer weren’t sending me travelling. Why should I be out money due to a work requirement?

      1. Amy*

        For many people, there are benefits to travel. For example, air miles and hotel points. Some companies also offer per diems in addition to meals.

        I have young children and frankly love the 2-3 nights a month where I’m put up at decent hotel and get to eat a nice steak dinner at the bar.

        1. ceiswyn*

          That’s nice for you, but what does it have to do with people who don’t like travel, don’t travel often, don’t collect air miles and hotel points, and who are therefore being expected to essentially subsidise a work decision that has no up sides for them?

          1. Amy*

            The majority of jobs do not include travel. My husband has never traveled a day in his life for work. If it’s that unpleasant, it’s probably best not to work in a position that requires travel. Enough people love/ like / don’t loathe travel that it’s probably best left to them.

            1. ceiswyn*

              Yes, and I don’t work in a position that requires travel.

              Nevertheless, my employers have occasionally required me to travel. So back to the question…?

    8. Close Bracket*

      Whoa now. People make a choice to have pets, but kids are just as often a whoopsie as they are planned, and children are an essential part of society, and as such, society has to provide a framework where they and their parents can exist and take part in essential life activities like working.

  21. Mary*

    >>How can I explain why I want to leave without looking like I am being forced out or that I am afraid of change?

    leaving IS change! It’s you making a proactive, voluntary change that’s good for you rather than have one forced on you. That’s literally the opposite of being afraid of change!

  22. J*

    #2 – Try being in the military. You end up seeing your co-workers (peers, superiors, and subordinates) naked all the damned time. Many facilities even have communal showers. Nobody cares because you’re just there to get clean and move out. Some people want to chat or admire each other’s tattoos. Most of the time you just face the wall, do your business, and get on with your day.

  23. MCL*

    OP3, have you ever looked into automatic cat feeders? We have a PetSafe Healthy Pet Simply Feed Automatic Cat and Dog Feeder, and it’s a little complicated but works great. We still have a neighborhood teen come in and refresh the water and give our two cats their meds, but a fountain would also be an option. If your cats only need food and water and no special care for a night or two, this could be a money saving option.

    1. PretzelGirl*

      I was going to suggest this. The teen, or older kid is a great idea. When we are gone for an all day outing (like longer than work hours). We have the neighbor kids come and take our dog for a walk. I give them a few bucks and my dog is a happy camper.

      If you don’t have any kids near by, try posting in a community facebook group.

      1. MCL*

        We probably wouldn’t even have the teen stop by if it weren’t for their meds, for just a trip of a night or two. A good feeder/fountain is expensive, but OP3 would quickly recoup the costs.

          1. Sorrischian*

            It depends on the cat, but in a lot of cases you can get away with leaving the litterbox for two or even three days.
            To be fair, my cat’s litterbox is a 15-gallon tub with a big hole cut in the lid because she likes to kick stuff over the sides, so leaving it more than a day is more feasible for me than for someone with a really small tray-style litterbox, but it’s certainly not unthinkable.

            1. CmdrShepard4ever*

              They actually make automatic self cleaning litter boxes now too. The most common type cleans the litter and stores the waste in a reservoir. There is another one that you can hook up to a water intake and drain hose, and it uses permanent reusable litter. After every use the litter gets washed/rinsed with water, and hard waste gets stored in a reservoir where it is dissolved in water and flushed down drain hose.

              I clean litter box every other day, and have not had a problem. As they get older that could change, and I will have to adjust accordingly.

            2. Joielle*

              I usually scoop every day or two but once I forgot to empty mine for a week (packed schedule, thought husband had done it, etc) and the cats didn’t seem to care much. We have two cats and three boxes, which helped, but they were all pretty full. The cats dutifully continued to use them. Turns out some cats are pickier than others about that kind of thing!

              1. Alton*

                Definitely depends. I have to clean my cat’s box a couple times a day because otherwise, she’ll stand and stare in the box like she’s trying to decide if it’s worth going in, and will give me pointed looks.

          2. MCL*

            They get scooped every two or three days. They have several cat boxes. You can also get self-cleaning litter boxes that are $$$$ but if OP is paying out the wazoo for catsitters she’d still come out ahead.

            1. MCL*

              All I’m saying is that there are tools to mitigate this situation assuming the cats don’t have special care needs and aren’t really picky about particular things. Our older dudes would be okay, except they get their daily old man meds. OP’s cats might not be okay, but it’s helpful to know that there could be some automation introduced to cut down on costs if the situation merits.

    2. Colette*

      Yes, my cousin has automatic feeders, which is great for me since I only have to check on her cats every few days.

        1. soon 2be former fed*

          Oh, and cats eon’t use them if they get too nasty, so you risk them eliminating on other surfaces if you don’t keep it clean.

        2. Colette*

          They’re fine. The cats have 3 boxes and only use 2 of them, so they can always use the third one if they don’t like the others, but there are been no issues.

          And ultimately I wouldn’t cat sit if I had to go there every day.

    3. cat socks*

      For a neighborhood pet sitter, you could check NextDoor for recommendations. We found our pet sitter through there and she charges a reasonable amount, but we are in a LCOL city.

      I have five cats and one takes medication, so I need someone to come twice a day. But with two cats and being gone for just a couple of nights, would it be cheaper to have someone come just once a day? I am very picky about clean litter boxes so if that is a concern, maybe set out some extra ones?

      As we’ve seen from other letters on this site, finding quality pet care can be challenging. I hope you find a solution that works for you!

      1. Quill*

        Your cat is a smart cookie, and him beating up the feeder makes me smile.

        But I’ve had to hand feed dogs, restrain dogs and cats so that other household animals can get their share, and even cook rice balls to get a dog to take his pills throughout the course of my ad-hoc pet sitting, and late in my own dog’s life I had to cook him runny eggs to get him to eat more often than not, so I can attest that there’s going to be a different feeding technique for every animal. ;)

    4. OP3*

      Hi, yes I actually do have an auto feeder and a water fountain for them, but one of my cats is blind and it makes me nervous not to have someone check on him. Would they be fine for a day or two on their own? Most likely, but I’d rather pay someone to stop by for my own mental well being! I can however find someone cheaper, I am currently using their vet technician and he charges a hefty fee ($35/visit!)

      1. MCL*

        Fair enough! I also worry about my two older dudes when we’re away and get a lot of relief knowing that someone will be stopping by to see them. This was really just a suggestion in case your situation would work with this solution. I certainly did not know the wonders of technological cat care breakthroughs for a long time. I hope you’re able to find someone less expensive, that is definitely quite a cost.

      2. CmdrShepard4ever*

        I apologize if you have already tried all of this.

        I also live in a big expensive city and use a vet tech that lives in my neighborhood and we pay $15 for a 30 minute visit. IDK if the vet tech you pay has to travel far or just based on where they are located even a short trip takes a while, but you might be able to find a professional qualified person that lives closer and charges a cheaper rate. Even if the vet tech works at a hospital nearby, it might actually take them a while to get to/from their house and yours.

  24. PretzelGirl*

    #2- You could always used a large towel to try and keep yourself covered while changing. Otherwise I would probably just change in a toilet stall or changing stall if available. I understand how you feel. I am not sure how I would feel, if I had change in front of co-workers. I can be a little modest, so I would probably choose to change in a stall.

  25. AvonLady Barksdale*

    LW #1, that’s my worst nightmare and you have my sympathies. I’ve spent years figuring out a response if his organization ever hires mine (which is unlikely but not completely impossible).

    I do know that if someone came to me with such a concern, I would do everything I could to protect my employee. So I hope your manager is understanding, and as Alison said, a lot of people have difficult family relationships and are prepared to be supportive.

  26. MissPieish*

    I’m wondering if LW 3 has tried Rover or Wag. It might be more in her area, but I’m a sitter and I charge $15 a visit to drop in, feed, and clean the litter box for two cats.

    1. Joielle*

      I’d definitely do this before enlisting a local teen or neighbor. There have been at least a couple of letters in recent memory about non-professional petsitting arrangements that fell through and damage was caused for one reason or another, and disputes over who should pay those expenses…. whereas if it had been a professional service, a replacement sitter would have been sent, or the company would have covered costs, or whatever.

      Personally, I use Rover for my dog and it’s always been great! It’s basically the same price as a kennel but he stays at a woman’s home who he LOVES and he gets to play with her dogs and sit on the couch and run around in the yard. And there’s protection in case something goes wrong.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        I use a local pet sitting service as well. They come in and check on the birds, feed them, change out water, and even have 30-45 minutes of free flight/play time, and it’s $15/day. They’re insured, have first aid training, certified… and they text me photos of the feathery weirdos every day with updates.

        I’m in a relatively larger city, it’s not a rural service. It looks like OP is using a pet sitting service, but I wonder if they’ve priced out small local business, or sitting services rather than a kennel offering a sitting service.

        I’m curious how long the travel tends to be as well, if they’re having someone come out every day, or can it be spaced to every other day? Or are there medication issues that need more attention? I’m also curious if the travel was in the job description or has cropped up. One of those, well, I can very much empathize with the increased difficulty of travel when you have pets, but it’s also a situation that you knew you were travelling going in, and that should have been part of the negotiations. If it’s just cropped up – negotiate a raise.

      1. OP3*

        Hi, I actually do use their vet technician, he charges $35 a visit and I often have him come twice a day, that’s why my costs are so high! I’m going to have to look elsewhere (like Rover etc.) but I really liked having the vet tech as he’s a pro and the cats know him.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          That’s cheeky that he’s charging so much an hour. You should absolutely look into other options! Unless he’s actually claiming that cash on his taxes or giving the clinic a cut, he’s cleaning up if he has multiple people he’s doing this service for.

          1. CmdrShepard4ever*

            I don’t think $35 an hour is expensive. I had initially assumed it was $35 for a half hour visit. I pay $15 for a 30 minute visit.

            As a vet tech and depending on how much time/effort they have to expend to get to OP’s place I can understand if the tech has a one hour minimum per visit. But OP if is having them stop two times a day for an hour each time, they can maybe cut it in half and have the tech stop by twice a day for 30 minutes each time.

          2. Close Bracket*

            He’s a vet tech, and therefore has qualifications that a pet sitter does not. It’s kind of like how I get paid more bc I have a PhD.

        2. E*

          If you find someone less expensive to try, perhaps have them come by a couple of times during a “practice” week so that the cats get used to the new person. Bit of initial cost up front but less in the long run.

        3. alligator aviator autopilot antimatter*

          Honestly, I disagree that that’s too high of a rate. Sure, the actual act of feeding the cat might not be extremely difficult and a neighbor kid could handle it, but the vet tech knows your cat’s needs and has the expertise to notice any problems well before the neighbor kid, or even you, would. It’s a lot of money but it pays for the benefit of a lot of education. We pay a vet tech a similar rate to feed our two elderly cats and give one an insulin shot twice daily when we travel, and she took very good care of our oldest, now-departed cat when his health took a bad turn while we were out of town. The neighbor kid with an auto-feeder would not have been able to do that.

          That said, I don’t think you’ll have much success getting reimbursed for this at work, perhaps unless the trip were very last minute. I would use this as an impetus to start negotiating for a raise (though I wouldn’t mention it as a reason why.) If your work is that important for them to have you traveling that much, you should be compensated properly for it. There are lots of costs to being on the road that much that employees don’t get explicitly reimbursed for, and while your having cats is not your employer’s responsibility, you should still be able to afford their care while you are away.

        4. Close Bracket*

          Could you use the vet tech for one visit per day and hire someone else for the second visit? That way you still have a trained medical person visiting once a day but you save some money.

          Or you could negotiate his rates. I bet he might charge less for the 2nd visit rather than lose the work. It’s worth asking.

  27. Ico*

    I always have to wonder when my coworkers ask “why doesn’t the company compensate me for ” or “why won’t the company contribute to my favorite cause”. The answer is they do – it’s your paycheck. You can choose to use that however you see fit.

    1. Joielle*

      I agree with this if the nature of the travel is known before the employee accepts the job – then you can negotiate for a salary that will cover travel-related expenses. But if travel crops up later, or becomes more frequent, I think it’s fair to say wait, my salary doesn’t account for this, can we revisit that. Probably makes more sense to do it in the context of a raise rather than specific pet or child care reimbursement, though.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        My job description says something like 20%-25% travel. Sometimes I have none. Sometimes I have a lot. Sometimes a coworker with the same job has to go to a site every week for 3 months and I don’t. That’s why it makes sense to compensate as-needed, not to bump up the salary to cover it–it saves the company but compensates people for extra burden. I also think a per diem is a better arrangement so that everyone gets the reimbursement/bump, regardless of kids, pets, elder care, etc.

        Now, if everyone in a certain role has M-F consultant/sales-type travel no matter what, sure, maybe it’s just part of the total salary, but a lot of roles are highly variable.

        1. Joielle*

          I can see the wisdom in that, but I also think that if you travel 20-25% of the time, your salary should be higher than if you didn’t travel at all, just because business travel is inherently inconvenient – partially because of actual increased costs at home, but also just being away, packing, working after hours, submitting expense reports, eating airport food, whatever. Even if there’s no travel some months, there’s a lot other months, so I think it evens out. If you started having to travel more and suddenly you were at 50% travel, I’d hope your salary would increase somewhat to compensate for the inconvenience.

    2. Phoenix Programmer*

      That’s a pretty flippant response to a question about expense occured for business. The convention is that businesses cover expenses you incur on their behalf during travel, but for some reason home expenses incurred for the business have been catagorically dismissed. It’s fair to ask why.

      1. OP3*

        Thank you Phoenix I appreciate that. Your point about home expenses incurred for the business being categorically dismissed is exactly my point.

      2. consultinerd*

        If I had to guess, I would say that a strong reason is that peoples’ home expenses vary much more widely than expenses for the travel itself. (More or less) everyone needs to eat three meals a day, one seat on an airplane, one conference registration, one room/bed in a hotel, etc. Expenses may vary a lot between companies and locations, but not so much between employees.

        By the same token, the home-based expenses of a traveler will vary drastically between a single/childless/petless person, vs. someone with four dogs and an iguana, vs. someone with one child and a SAH partner, vs. a single parent with special-needs children and an ailing parent at home. Trying to make people whole with respect to these kinds of expenses adds a potentially large X-factor into budgeting for travel expenses and puts bosses/HR folks into the unpleasant position of adjudicating what does and doesn’t qualify as reimbursable.

        All that isn’t to say that this kind of reimbursement shouldn’t happen, but that it’s understandable that companies are reluctant to deviate from the status quo.

  28. CupcakeCounter*

    Not sure how your gym is set up but the gym next door to my work has a small changing space in each shower stall. I always took my underthings with me to the shower so I could at least have the important parts covered. For some reason the changing into workout gear never bothered me as I could change in pieces but that post-shower naked time was always when my boss walked it.

    1. Transman Here*

      I’ve been in transition for over a decade and always use the men’s locker room. I just leave my underwear on when I go to the shower, take my underwear off to shower, then put on underwear to walk back to my locker. I have never had anyone notice that I am missing certain anatomical parts…

      I joined a gym where I knew my boss worked out. It wasn’t uncommon to see him in the locker room. It was weird at first, but I quickly came to the realization that we are both there to work out. It was actually more awkward seeing him in the workout area because I always felt like I should acknowledge his existence.

  29. Bear*

    I think the answer Alice provided to #1 is spot on, with one caveat. It is entirely possible that your team lead or HR group turns your relationship with your father on you to the tune of “are personal issues going to keep you from fulfilling your job responsibilities?”

    My own approach would be to have a one on one with my manager to the tune of: “Hey, just to let you know, my father works for X company and we have not spoken for several years. However, I don’t see this preventing me from being effective in my position. What are your thoughts?”

    Entering that conversation saying you can’t work with someone is a hard start and should generally be avoided, because we are all eventually expected to interact in our role, and for our company, even with people and contacts we might personally prefer to avoid. If it is an issue big enough for you to move on, then do so discretely and make it your choice, rather than your company’s choice and timing.

    1. Estranged*

      Good point. I might blend with the advice above to the tune of “While I don’t see this preventing me from being effective in my position, I’d appreciate if any work involving him or his team could be assigned to someone else” to highlight that while I could do the thing, I’d prefer not to.

      Some folks might be able to read that between the lines and not need my addendum, but I’d rather be safe.

  30. Janet, Sower of Chaos*

    Oof I would just change in the stall. All my body-related boundaries are way tighter at work than anywhere else! There’s just something about coworkers, man. I won’t even nurse in front of them, and I will nurse anywhere else, including the communion line at church.

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        Places I’ve nursed: pediatric waiting room, backseat of my car, restaurant booth, park bench, infant daycare room, moped shop. Never could master nursing in a carrier though.

      2. Fikly*

        Or a 5 day stay in the ICU where GI issues were a major issue at play and you couldn’t even sit up, never mind get out of bed.

  31. voyager1*

    LW1: If one of my team members told me that their parent worked in a dept that could have overlap with that team member’s duties. I personally would try and keep my team member segregated from those interactions. Being estranged from the parent wouldn’t even be a factor in consideration.

    I doubt I am the only person who feels this way.

    1. BradC*

      I hope you’re right, but I fear that there are at least SOME (bad) managers who, after finding out about the relationship, would instead think “oh cool, I bet they’d love to work together on (overlapping project X)!”

      Which is why the “I’d prefer not to work with them if I can avoid it” is important to be explicit about, even if it really shouldn’t be necessary.

      I’m even concerned that adding “we’ve been estranged for 2 years” will trigger the “but they’re your faaaaaaaaaaaamily!!” response in way too many people. Search the “faaaaaaaamily” tag at Captain Awkward’s site for lots of annoying examples.

      1. Estranged*

        This is my fear. After a day of getting a better feel for my manager, I sincerely doubt he’d do that, but I fear his manager, who has worked with my father, might think it fun/funny to somehow rope us together. Probably not on the same project, but more in a “Oh, hey, look who stopped by!” sort of way.

        1. Lauren*

          Some people just always think they are special and you won’t mind whatever they do (force a interaction / prank you / sexually harass you / retaliate against you) – all under the guise of ‘can’t you take a joke’ or gas-lighting you to think it wasn’t happening.

          Yeah, talk to you manager. You need to convey how serious this is, and that if they’d rather not work there vs. just assigning any work with your dad to someone else – to just tell you now.

          If they say, its best you leave – then say that you’ll have your lawyer call HR about a separation agreement. Personally, I’d rather get a settlement (severance and unemployment) and highlight this is an HR issue than to find out months later he is going to make a valid case against you. You know him – will he get people to do his dirty work? Then don’t put yourself through it. Find out now.

          1. Estranged*

            Good points. And since it doesn’t seem likely that working together or even in close proximity would ever be important, outside of something dramatic like my company being consolidated into the parent company, forcing the issue now shouldn’t be a big deal, and having the company rubber stamp my desire to not be subjected to my father would do a lot for my comfort.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Maybe your boss can tell his boss “that’s not cool” before it happens. OTH, you may find out that big boss is never around for various reasons.

          Card up the sleeve. One day at my former workplace, an ex-boss of my husband’s walked in. This guy is walking haz mat, he’s so toxic. I ducked in the rest room. And I am not ashamed to say that. I decided I would not be dealing with this person period. Look around your work place, where can you disappear to?

          This will get easier in a bit because you may develop one or two really good work friends, who can create urgent things that they must pull you away to deal with immediately. I have done this for people also.

          1. Estranged*

            True. That and doing things like scanning meeting invites before attending just to be safe. It’s a shame this has to linger over my job, but even if my boss is 100% supportive of making sure our paths don’t cross, it’ll always be possible for it to happen by accident, so it’ll be good to just have some basic strategies in the back of my head.

            Also, I literally hid in the bushes once for a similar reason, so no shame for bathroom-hiding.

  32. NapkinThief*

    Ah, OP#2, my sympathies! So far I’ve never run into anyone I know in the gym locker room, but I still am squicky about being exposed in front of other people.

    I bring my undergarments in a plastic bag to the shower with me, then put them on in the shower stall and wrap my towel over them before walking to the lockers for the rest of my clothes. That way I at least can easily put on clothing over/under the towel with minimal flashing.

  33. Narise*

    Have you identified your role vs your father’s and how they interact? I am trying to think of sitting in a room with a family member and telling them ‘no we don’t agree and our team is not going to handle XYZ’. Different family members would react differently and I can’t imagine you having to push back on your father. Or the flip side you having to get his sign off on a project before moving forward. He could make that very difficult for you. I am not recommending that you work with him if it’s not one of these situations but I think adding this to your conversation with your manager ‘My dad will not hear no from me,’ or ‘My dad will make it more difficult for me on a project.’ may help clarify why you cannot work with him.

    1. Estranged*

      I believe, were we forced to work together, it would be in a context where I would be a resource for his understanding of the product I’m working on so that he could do his job properly. Right now I believe we work in products different enough that it’s unlikely that they’d interact, but I don’t know for sure since I haven’t talked to him in so long.

      Thankfully there’s not too much hierarchy there, but it’s also a vague enough dynamic that it would make it really easy for him to claim that I’m not doing enough to help him.

      And, fwiw, he would abhor having to learn from me and his ego could flare in unpleasant ways.

  34. Tootsie*

    #3 Sorry if this has been mentioned already, but there are cat bowls/feeders that you can put several days worth of food (dry) and water. They are much less than $200!

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m a monster who uses one every day because I’m paranoid about “what if I’m trapped in a cave one day and I can’t get in touch with someone to feed my cat?!” He’s always got at least 2 weeks worth at any given time. Then he’s never experiencing “empty food dish” distress either, lol.

      I also leave bags down that he could scratch his way into if he needed to.

      I may also be a bit of a weirdo survivalist though…thanks Dad. We’re not doomsdayers at all, we’re just dorks who grew up in the middle of nowhere, be prepared for everything!

  35. Scarlet*

    I am still the weird one who changes in stalls or comes to the gym already in workout clothes. I just cannot be naked in front of strangers, let alone people I don’t know. Really don’t get it, especially casually walking around naked(!!!) and stuff. I suspect this will be a part of American culture I never understand.

    1. Rexish*

      Really? Cause we in general view americans to be very prudish about nudity. Just an interesting when people have a different experience :)

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I had the same reaction, but then again, some of the women at the gym who are over 65 tend to strip down completely, dig around in gym bags/organize clothes, THEN get dressed. I hear it’s worse with the men–some older men will carry on a complete conversation with the stranger at the locker next to them before putting on anything. One theory I have is that there was simply less room for privacy growing up for older generations. If you always shared a room with your brothers or sisters, you are used to doing everything with others in the room. Neither of my parents had their own bedroom. I had my own bedroom and bathroom.

        1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          I’ve also found that some (but certainly not all) older people have pretty much had enough time to get over their initial hang-ups through repeated exposure and are just generally more chill about awkward things. If someone is 70 years old and has been getting naked in locker rooms since they were around 12, they have had many years of practice getting used to the idea of being naked around other people. Those who still feel uncomfortable getting naked in groups in their 70s may well have talked themselves out of going to the gym in the intervening decades.

          Personally, I don’t do single-sex naked spaces because they stress me the heck out (mixed-sex are fine for me, which I realize is not the universal solution here), and on a related note last changed in a locker room for 6th grade PE. I get my exercise outside of a gym context.

          1. Us, too*

            Yep. Can confirm that my level of caring about being naked in the gym has greatly diminished with passing years. The closer I get to death, the less I care about wasting mental space on these kind of things.

        2. Close Bracket*

          I have theory that you hit a point where you just give no f—s anymore. You’d be amazed at how quality of life increases as f—s given decrease.

  36. JustAnotherAnalyst*

    #2: If you are comfortable with functional nudity, please do not change in the toilet stalls. Many people need urinate before working out and you would be occupying the toilet stall. I am one of those people. My pelvic floor is not what it used (and neither is the rest of my body) and I absolutely need to empty my bladder before gym classes. I really appreciate it when people don’t use the toilet stalls as change rooms. At our old building, there was always a line up before the toilet stalls right before the most popular classes started and many people did not make it on time.

  37. Shadowbelle*

    #2 Oh please avoid using the toilet stalls for changing during busy times! I used to have the same kind of work/gym situation, and so many women used the stalls for changing that those of us who needed to use the toilets couldn’t get to them. We had to change, then leave the locker room and go to some other restroom. This was particularly nasty when one was menstruating, and not at all fun at any time.

    1. David*

      I want to know how the LW Cleared four-month grooming backlog for Big Llama Inc. in three weeks.

      That sounds awfully like something shifty happened there! Did they downsize the flock to one capable of being dealt with in three weeks? “There doesn’t seem to be as many Llamas as we were expecting to see…… Oh well! your’ve done good!”

      1. Lady Heather*

        This reminds me of the time that for a school assignment my sister had to come up with a solution to prevent people from dying of starvation.

        Although her answer was technically correct, her teacher did not agree with it.

          1. Lady Heather*

            The translated equivalent of ‘Shoot them!’, yes.

            (Our country has very strict gun control – like ‘on-duty cops occasionally carry a gun’ gun control – so that was considered a joke and not a threat or a xenophobe/hostile statement.)

            We still laugh about it occasionally.

  38. Rexish*

    #2 Okay, so I’m from the nordics and I think our attitudes towards nudity are a bit different than in the states so this might not be valid. But we have a gym with communal (single sex) locker room and shower. I don’t pay attention to others and they are not paying attention to me. I get changed and get on with it. Trying to hide too much is gonna make others pay attention to you. I feel like you are overthinking.

  39. Observer*

    Seriously? Working out in a gym is NOT “toxic behavior” for the vast majority of people and is so far from fat phobic that I’m calling troll.

    Fat shaming and fat phobia is a real problem. Please don’t try to minimize the problem by making it sound like people with weight issues are just complaining about people trying to take care of their health.

  40. j*

    #4. I left my last job because of this and one one even blinked when I mentioned it, either for my current job when I interviewed years ago, or jobs I’ve been interviewing for recently. I just say something like “The company laid off about half of its employees. Though I was fortunate to not be included, it didn’t look like the situation was going to improve, and I wanted to look for something more stable.” Every single interviewer seemed completely fine with that. You’re good!

  41. drpuma*

    OP5, I’ve also done contract work in an industry where that’s common, and I handle it on my resume/LinkedIn in one of the following ways:

    * Llama groomer, Big Llama Co via Small Farms
    * Llama groomer at Llama Co, Small Farms

    Hope this is helpful if you’re generally contracting for one or the other at a time. If you get sent to both equally, what Alison described is the better way to go.

    1. Betsy S*

      It is increasingly becoming the NORM for companies to use contractors, especially big tech companies, so this is not going to raise any eyebrows


      “The Times article included an estimate from staffing platform OnContracting, saying most technology firms used contract workers for 40 to 50 percent of their staff. According to an NPR/Marist poll conducted in 2018, contractors currently make up about 20 percent of the labor market, with a prediction that contract workers could make up half of the American workforce within a decade.”

    2. Jr*

      Any advise if “Small Farms” is actually just a single person? I’m a junior llama groomer and I contract for a senior llama groomer. She is a one-person business and she subcontracts to me. She has several Big Llama Corporations as clients. It feels awkward to write:
      • Llama Groomer, via Jane Smith
      Any ideas? I have no direct relationship any of the Big Llama Corporations.

      1. drpuma*

        Maybe check your paycheck or her website? Does she really do business as Jane Smith, or does she do business as J Smith LLC or Jane Smith Enterprises ? One of the latter might make it clearer that she operates as a business. If not, maybe something like Llama Groomer at Big Llama Co, placed by Jane Smith

  42. Phony Genius*

    For #3, if the company reimbursed for child and/or pet sitting, it could affect who they choose to send on the trip. For example: “Let’s send Chip to Orlando for the convention. If we send Dale, we’ll have to spend an extra $500 to reimburse them for babysitting.” This would of course create an unfair situation.

  43. J!*

    #3 at my organization we get a per diem when we travel. It’s not a reimbursement, it’s a flat fee of $X amount for overnights and 60% of X for one day round-trips further than 50 miles from home. (Right now I think X is 90, but it increases on a schedule.) It’s completely up to me how I want to spend it – room service vs a trip to the grocery store and pocketing the rest, upgrading my airplane seats to an exit row, etc. It’s understood that in addition to feeding us, it will also cover any non-reimbursable incidentals related to traveling like boarding your pets or wifi on the plane or whatever else. This was something that is important to the people on our staff who travel regularly rather than haggling over specifics all the time and having to submit so many itemized expenses, so we negotiated it in our collective bargaining agreement.

  44. Future Retired Person*

    OP #2, if you decide to change in a toilet stall (or a shower stall), please be mindful of other people’s needs to use those spaces. I swim at a work gym, and people regularly spend time getting COMPLETELY DRESSED in a shower or toilet stall. That means that I get out of the pool and stand in the cold waiting for one to open up. Often I am hurrying to get back to an appointment, which makes it all even more frustrating.

    I’m not asking you to “get over it” — I understand that some people are uncomfortable changing in front of colleagues — or anyone else. But please think about how you could minimize the amount of time you are in one of those spaces.

    (And yes, I have asked management to deal with it, and they have signs up in the toilet stalls. It helps some. But the real problem is the showers.)

  45. Cat Feeder*

    Didn’t read all the comments because it got bogged down in socio-political issues more than anything, so sorry if I am repeating someone else, but there are many pet feeding devices out there that can help if you’re only gone a few days. I used one that would do four feedings, so I put a whole day’s food in each slot. If she ate everything at once, she survived just fine; if she didn’t eat it all before it revolved to the next day, she was just fine too. (This really only works for hard food. If it’s too long to not have the litter changed, put an extra box out (there’s even disposable boxes.)

  46. remizidae*

    LW#3–wow, I would never pay $200 for cat care! Just make friends with a neighbor and ask them to do it. You can trade favors or toss them a sixpack or say $10 a day. It doesn’t take a lot of effort or a high level of skill to feed a cat.

    1. The Francher Kid*

      Unless the cat has special needs. I cared for two cats that belonged to a co-worker for a week a few years ago, and she paid me very well. One was diabetic and had to have insulin injections twice a day at the same time each day and the other was on a special diet for kidney problems and had to be fed multiple small meals throughout the day. If the cats in question require care like this, it’s not cheap and can’t be left to someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing.

      I haven’t seen anything that says the OP’s cats require this, just pointing out that what OP is spending is not necessarily out of line if the cats have special needs.

    2. ceiswyn*

      Depends on the cat.
      I have a 20-year-old, senile, incontinent cat with a heart murmur. Still think that a random neighbour is going to cut it?

      1. OP3*

        Yes it does depend. One of my cats is blind, and needs to be kept to a schedule or else he gets confused/panicked. I’ve paid neighbors to feed him before and they aren’t as dependable/the level of care isn’t on par with professionals so I have been paying their vet technician to come, hence the high cost I quoted in the original not to Alison.

    3. AnotherSarah*

      remizidae, probably LW #3 has considered this! I also don’t live in a place where the arrangement you suggest is possible–maybe for one night but certainly not more.

  47. Estranged*

    Hey everyone! It’s my 4th day on the job so I’m focusing on work, but I appreciate all the thoughtful feedback and I’ll try to respond to things after work.

    1. Database Developer Dude*

      Take your time, Estranged. This is a lot to process. Family dysfunction can take a LOT out of you from a mental and emotional standpoint.

    2. What was I doing SQUIRREL!*

      I hope everything is going as smoothly as possible and that you have minimal (preferably zero) interactions with your father. Best wishes for a successful time at this job!

    3. Not So NewReader*

      OP, I feel so bad for ya. And you see how many others feel the same way here.

      Alison loves updates and there is also the Friday open thread. Let us know how you are doing.
      Above all else, keep yourself safe and whatever it means to do that.

    4. Estranged*

      Awe, thanks folks. Today went really well and I have hope that, armed with all the thoughtful conversational talking points brought up in the comments, that my conversation with my manager will go smoothly. I am going to wait for a somewhat natural time to bring it up so I don’t come across as too eager to discuss this improbable thing (thus accidentally giving off drama signals that I don’t intend), but I promise I’ll check back in once I talk to him.

  48. Former call centre worker*

    My office has an on site gym. I don’t love it but everyone in the changing room is there for the same reason. So long as you make reasonable efforts of modesty/respectfulness it’s ok. Cover up or turn away when you can and don’t worry too much if your boss sees you in your pants.

  49. Spek*

    #1 I am in disagreement here. It’s your first week on the job. Take some time to absorb the culture, get to know your boss, and establish yourself in the company before you go making a big deal over a work situation with your estranged father that you said yourself may never happen. There is plenty of time for you to see more clearly how likely is is that you will have to work with your dad and meanwhile you can build your reputation as a good, reliable worker. You are still an unknown quality at this point; there is no need to inject any potential family drama into the mix so soon.

    1. Estranged*

      If it weren’t known that my father worked for parent company, this is 100% how I would have gone with it without thought. I have a common last name and it would have been easy for this never to be an issue. It’s the fact that my manager’s manager has worked with my father that makes me nervous. It would be so easy for her to mention to him about me starting here and I’m not sure what would happen after that.

      But you’re right that I could bide my time a little bit. Like, wait for 1-1 or some other natural time to bring it up to make sure that I’m not coming across as hyper-sensitive about a thing that isn’t likely to come about.

  50. Pobody’s Nerfect*

    OP3: When you make the decision to have children or to acquire pets, part of that decision should be forethought into the significant financial obligations that come with having kids or pets, ie childcare and petcare/pet sitting. Both are really expensive. IMO if you know ahead of time that paying for childcare or petcare is not an expense you can afford (for the long term), then you don’t have kids or you don’t acquire pets. It’s part of being not just a responsible parent or pet owner, but a responsible citizen and human being.

    1. Colette*

      You could use the same argument to say that if a business can’t afford to cover the costs they are causing employees by business travel (including child or pet care), they can’t afford to have employees travel for business.

      1. Pobody’s Nerfect*

        No, because children and pets (and their care) are not a requirement of the employee working there. Those are personal non-work decisions to have kids or pets. No one forces an employee to have either. But being prepared and able to cover the costs of raising a child or having a pet is a personal responsibility, not the employer’s responsibility.

        1. Fiddlesticks*

          And I could be a jerk here as a childfree by choice person, and say that NOBODY actually covers the costs of raising their children without the help of all of us childfree people. We are taxed for schools, mother and child welfare programs, child recreation programs, etc etc, just like everyone with kids of their own. No one forced you to have kids, but we are forced to subsidize your kids!

          But that’s the rule of living in a civilized society where we also depend upon today’s kids to get an education, become productive members of society, pay into Social Security and fill jobs in assisted living and medical fields to assist older people. Get off your high horse, though, about ANYONE paying for all the costs of raising their kids by themselves, because you certainly don’t. Otherwise, I can give you my address on where to send the big refund I’m owed for all the years I’ve paid my taxes to support other people’s kids.

          1. Pobody's Nerfect*

            I’m not on a high horse, what a weird interpretation. If you read the comments you’ll see the majority of other people on this post are of the same opinion I am, which is that the employer cannot and should not have to cover non-work-related personal expenses, whether or not they are incurred because of travel or something else. It would lead to some pretty unfair work environment situations. And I’m perfectly aware of where all of my tax dollars are going and how they are subsidizing kids everywhere, even when they’re not my kids. That is a completely different realm of employers paying for petcare or childcare or other personal expenses.

  51. Brett*

    If you are interviewing for jobs in the same industry, there is a good chance that all your interviewers already know about the acquisition. They probably will not even ask for an explanation because they will see the company on your resume and know that you have acquisition synergies (i.e. layoffs) hanging over your head.

    If anything, that might make them more interested in you, because they know situations like this are an opportunity for them to pick up talent they might not normally be able to recruit.

  52. HotSauce*

    LW#3 – I recommend a couple of things for your cats, which has made traveling so much easier for my husband and I.
    1. Litter Robot: it’s an investment, but it ensures that our picky kitty who only likes to use a clean box doesn’t go outside of it if we’re not home from work in time.
    2. Robot pet food feeder: You can find these relatively cheap on Amazon now & some even come with a camera so you can check in on your fur babies when you’re away. The one we have holds an 8-lb bag of kibble and you can set it to dispense set amounts at set times. Great for kitties who are trying to lose weight (I need one for myself, lol!)
    3. Water fountain: these are also relatively cheap on Amazon. Ours holds about half a gallon of water & since we switched over to this we’ve found our guy is much more enthusiastic about drinking water.
    4. If you feed wet food you can get timer feeders that you can put an ice pack in to keep them fresh for a day or two. (https://smile.amazon.com/WOpet-Automatic-Feeder-Dogs-Included/dp/B07M9J4SNR/ref=sr_1_6?crid=321RT5OHR8FQN&keywords=timed+wet+food+cat+feeder&qid=1574358071&sprefix=timed+wet+%2Caps%2C470&sr=8-6)

    While I totally agree that employers should reimburse for any additional costs you incur for their business, the reality is that it probably won’t be changing anytime soon.

  53. Lauren*

    OP #1 – You must follow AAM’s advice on wording here. “We don’t get along” is way different than “my father and I are estranged and haven’t spoken in over 3 years”. People are going to assume its all fine and even tell him you work there now, which if he is vindictive could be a big problem. Tell your manager and HR this, so that if he turns into a major drama jerk – it won’t affect you. Be wary of him bad-mouthing you even if he never speaks to you directly. Telling your manager is key, but it needs to be told to HR so there is a record that you told them. If something comes from the parent company saying you aren’t doing your job or anything, it can be seen that on day #2 you told them you have this concern and ask that any concerns be validated through your company, team, and manager vs. from the parent company. If your manager is cool, you should be able to say – not that I expect any drama from him at work – i do want to have it said in my file that I warned you about Daddy Dearest”.

    1. Estranged*

      Thanks for highlighting why the verbiage is important. I know I’m going to get all kinds of nervous trotting personal stuff out for work, so I’ll be sure to have it written down or some such to ensure I hit the important words.

  54. Professional Gym Goer*

    OP #2 – I’ve spent a large part of my life in locker rooms growing up as a competitive athlete and now work at a health club where I utilize the locker room (for work and for recreation). Don’t change in the bathroom stall. Not only will people wonder more about why you’re doing that than they would if you just changed in the main part of the room, but you’ll be blocking the toilet. When I was pregnant the facility where I worked had one toilet for adult women and it was a huge problem for me when clients were using the stall to change instead of in the provided locker room. Most gyms do have more than one toilet, but people can only relieve themselves (or take care of more delicate matters than changing clothes) in that specific place.

    Changing in the shower stall, if your gym has multiple showers and they set up that way, is a better option if you want a barrier between you and other people, but people might get testy if you’re taking up too much time and there’s a wait for a shower.

    If you’re changing in the main area, turn around so you’re not looking at other people and they won’t really be looking at you.

  55. Tata*

    #2 — I have an onsite gym as well and change as quickly as possible. take shirt off, put on gym shirt, then same for bottoms so that way I’m not fully naked. If there are no changing stalls, how about using the shower stall instead to change? I have health issue that requires I have access to toilet quickly at times. It’s a huge pet peeve when there are changing stalls and people are using all of the toilet stalls instead. I’ve had to move quickly to get to last toilet stall and basically cut off the other person that was going in to change.

  56. Fiddlesticks*

    Does anyone know if unreimbursed child-care or petsitting expenses resulting from required business travel would be considered a legitimate business expense for income tax deduction purposes?

    1. noahwynn*

      No, the IRS considers these personal expenses, so they are not deductible. For child-care you might be able to claim the Child and Dependent Care Credit.

  57. Crazy Cat Ladyyy*

    #3. Apologies if already suggested, but I did try to read most of the comments first. If your cats do not have special needs or some other consideration, an automatic feeder and water dish for our cat has been great for short out of town trips. Obviously this doesn’t work after more than a couple of days because the litter box would need to be cleaned, but our cat is pretty self sufficient and the automatic feeder is perfect for her. You can set it for when and how much to feed.

  58. Gym Time*

    #2 You say in the letter that it’s “the gym right across the street from our office.”

    If that’s true, then why not just change at work into your gym clothes and walk across the street to the gym?

    If you’re going straight home after you can even just wait and change/shower when you arrive home.

    I’m uncomfortable with nudity (my own and others) and will never change in a communal change room so I simply change before getting to the sports facility and after leaving it.

  59. agnes*

    Re: cost of animal/child care–what do you do if you find yourself travelling much much more than you were told the job required? I have a friend right now who was very careful to fully understand the travel commitment because she has an old dog with medical issues and so has to pay a lot to have him cared for when she’s away (going rate around here for that kind of care is about $45-50 per day). She negotiated based on having to travel 10-15% of the time. In the past year she has traveled almost 60%–and for long international trips. The company’s attitude is–we told you there was travel involved . Tough. She is willing to do the travel, but at this point the travel has made a significant impact on her finances.

  60. Anonymouse*

    #2: A former employer had its own gym built into the building which lots of folks used, and I’m relatively comfortable being naked, so I un/dressed out in the open and paid no attention to others doing the same. The one time I grabbed my things and went to a stall was when I ran into our managing director. She was super chill about it of course and didn’t make it a big deal at all, but I just thought we didn’t need to have those kinds of visuals of each other.

  61. Anonymous, Also Estranged*

    OP #1: I haven’t read all the comments yet so I apologize if I’m repeating something, but I wanted to leave a comment because I also don’t have contact with my family. This is the language I use when I need to explain this to someone — “I don’t have contact with” or “I moved out when I was 18 and haven’t willingly interacted with them since then.” This has worked well with almost everyone, in the sense that people seem to get that this is a serious thing and respect my desire to avoid these people.

    I also have not found that it is a big deal to discuss at work. My family members have reached out to my bosses several times. Each of those bosses told me, and I then did a brief explanation of the situation similar to the above (“I moved out when I was 18, haven’t willingly interacted with them since then”) and explained what I needed (“do not tell them anything about me, here is a very brief summary of how they have used information about me in the past, I would be very uncomfortable with them knowing anything like my phone number or address or anything else about me”). Because this had happened a few times, when I switched jobs I pre-emptively told some people that my family members had previously reached out to my places of employment, they might do so again, and they should never be given any information about me. Everyone I said this stuff to got it, they all reacted like of course doing the things I requested was the most natural thing, and like my family members were the problem and I wasn’t.

    In the rare situations when someone does try to communicate that we should just get along or I’ll regret not talking with them or anything like that, I’ve said things like, “Well, I lived with them for 18 years and you’ve never met them, so I’m going to trust my judgment on this one.” That got the point across and didn’t hurt my relationship with the person I said it to, who was very very senior to me in the place where I worked at the time. Something like this might be useful in case you do get a reaction that isn’t helpful, though obviously you know your relationships best and have a better sense of how folks are likely to react to you saying something like this.

    I’m sorry you’re dealing with this and hope the situation gets resolved in a way that feels good for you.

    1. Anonymous, Also Estranged*

      Oh, in case it wasn’t clear, I know the last part won’t work exactly in this context since your father already works at the company. But it can be modified if you want. Like, “Well, people can be different in different contexts. I’m glad that he’s been great at work, but at home that hasn’t been the case.” Or whatever works for you. I know the situations are not exactly comparable either, because I moved out and wasn’t disowned and work in a different industry than my family members, but hopefully some of this can be helpful.

      1. Estranged*

        Thanks for discussing your experiences navigating a similar topic. It’s reassuring to Hear that it hasn’t been a big deal.

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